Public Values

Texas " a battleground" over privatization of health and human services

Child Protective Services, Medicaid, food stamps on the block to lowest bidder.

by Corrie MacLaggan, American Statesman

February 10, 2009 — Nowhere in Texas government has the ideological divide over privatization — and the potential pitfalls — been more pronounced than in the arena of health and human services.

Privatization critics say human services are the absolute last government functions that should be hired out. But in the past decade, the Legislature has hired or moved toward hiring private companies to run call centers enrolling Texans in food stamps and Medicaid, create a Web-based human resources system for the health and human services agencies and monitor the progress of children in foster care, with mixed results.

This year, lawmakers are again considering outsourcing portions of Child Protective Services, something that more than half the states have tried in an attempt to save money and increase efficiency, also with mixed results.

Child Protective Services in particular "calls for very high levels of judgment and accountability," said Mike Gross, vice president of the 11,000-member Texas State Employees Union. "As work gets transferred to the private sector, we lose all that."

In fact, less than a year after the state hired Accenture LLP to sign up needy Texans for food stamps, Medicaid and other programs, a comptroller's report found the number of children enrolling in health insurance programs had plunged by 80,000; later, a backlog of food stamp applications was discovered. . .

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  Health and human services are battleground for state privatization, by Corrie MacLaggan, American Statesman, February 10 2009

Posted: February 12, 2009

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