Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Wentzville Health-Care Processing Problems Came from Computer Snafus, Feds Say

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Wentzville Health-Care Processing Problems Came from Computer Snafus, Feds Say

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON * The same computer problems that hampered individuals from signing up for the Affordable Care Act last fall also plagued workers at an ACA processing facility in Wentzville, where whistleblowers have alleged that little work was being done, the government agency overseeing the project said Wednesday.

The contractor, Serco Inc., a British firm with U.S. headquarters in northern Virginia, was the subject of allegations from employees and former employees that workers read, slept or played games while on duty because of the lack of work. On Wednesday, a spokesman for the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services said that Serco whose workers process paper applications and check documentation submitted in support of Affordable Care Act applications "experienced the same tech issues that were widely reported last fall with healthcare.gov."

"Most of those issues have been resolved," Aaron Albright, a CMS spokesman, said in response to emailed questions.

Without directly addressing the allegations from the whistleblowers, Albright said Serco is "working around the clock" now.

The computer problems came at a time when, according to members of Missouri's delegation, there may have been only a small fraction of the more than 6 million paper applications that had been expected to come into the Wentzville and other Serco facilities when the Affordable Care Act was launched.

"We are concerned Serco may have much less work than was expected when CMS awarded the contract, and may not be successfully completing the applications it has received," said a letter Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., sent last month to CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner.

Albright said Serco, which has 3,241 employees spread over processing centers in Wentzville and in Oklahoma, Kentucky and Arkansas, was working to keep up with the application workload, including resolving documentation inconsistencies in more than 2 million applications for coverage under the new law.

Whistleblower allegations last month that claimed workers slept, read or played games at Wentzville invoked a flurry of questions from Missouri's congressional delegation.

Since then, reports about application inconsistencies have become a political football, with Democrats describing them as anticipated challenges of providing health care to millions of applicants, and Republicans citing their prevalence as another failure of the new health care law.

Albright said that at the end of May, about 1.2 million applicants had inconsistencies in their reports on annual income in their applications, 461,000 had citizenship inconsistencies, and 505,000 had immigration inconsistencies.

CMS and Serco are now "resolving cases rapidly, and anticipate adding capacity in order to verify most of the documentation provided by consumers from the 2014 applications by the end of this summer," Albright said.

Three top Serco officials last week privately briefed staffers for Missouri Republicans in the House of Representatives about allegations surrounding the processing of applications at Wentzville and the three other facilities.

"It was a good meeting, an informative meeting," said Paul Sloca, a spokesman for Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-St. Elizabeth.

But Sloca said Luetkemeyer and other members of the Missouri House delegation remain unsatisfied over CMS's lack of response to questions from the Missouri delegation. …

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