State still working to fix issues in new system handling public benefits

Work is still being done to resolve issues associated with the rocky roll-out of a new state computer system meant to help people get public benefits, state officials told the Interim Joint Committee on Health and Welfare on Wednesday.

The new $100 million system, called Benefind, was launched in February after several years of design and experienced many issues immediately after the system switch.

After the roll-out of Benefind, thousands of Kentuckians mistakenly received letters notifying them that they would no longer receive state benefits like Medicaid or food stamps.

In the meeting Wednesday, state officials recognized the issue with those incorrect notifications as well as long wait times and said many of the problems have been fixed but there is still more work that needs to be done.

A rapid response team has been put in place by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to address the cases of lost benefits immediately which they say has helped resolve those problems and restore benefits for Kentuckians who saw a lapse in coverage after the launch.

It was stated Wednesday that the backlog created by the roll-out of Benefind, which seeks to centralize all public benefit distribution, is now gone as they have caught up on all the cases since the launch of the system.

As for wait times, officials said they have brought the average wait time down to around 20 minutes compared to where they were at the time of launch when individuals were having to wait for over two hours to discuss their benefits.

Bernard Decker, Executive Director of the Office of Administrative & Technology Services, said in the committee meeting Wednesday that some of the problems with Benefind could and should have been foreseen while there was no way some issues could have been expected ahead of the system’s launch.

“We are doing everything we can to make sure the system is working for everyone,” Decker said.

Lawmakers on the Interim Joint Committee on Health and Welfare asked a few questions about the updated status of the system but were not as critical as they have been in previous hearings about Benefind.

Sen. Danny Carroll of Paducah said he believes the problems are beginning to be resolved and that he feels the system will be a positive advancement once all the kinks are worked out.

However, Carroll said that many people in the state “deserve an apology” because of the issues associated with the roll-out and a loss of benefits that some experienced, adding that he feels there should be better communication to the people of Kentucky when a new system is rolled out noting that there will likely be issues that come with the changes.

Also discussed at the meeting was the 1115 waiver the state is crafting for Medicaid in the state which they hope will be approved by the federal government before the end of the year. Get the details on the specifics of that waiver here.

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Jacqueline Pitts
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