Thank you to the Health and Human Services Committee and Senator Conrad for taking the time to assess the impact of the new ACCESS Nebraska System on clients and community based organizations.
In general, Voices for Children in Nebraska believes that the use of new technology is important to improving the delivery of public benefits. However, in the months since the new system has been rolled out, we have heard from many community partners about the difficulties that this transition has created for them and their clients.
We have heard numerous concerns similar to those the committee will be hearing today including long call wait times, delayed payments to providers, inconvenient appointment times, and lost documentation.
We believe that most of the issues can be addressed through administrative improvements including:
- Ensuring that the call centers have an adequate number of staff to address call volume in a reasonable amount of time;
- Additional staff training on program requirements and interacting with special populations;
- Ensuring that documentation is handled carefully and quickly;
- Staff expectations that allow for each client to be afforded adequate time for information gathering and processing;
- Thoughtful attention to challenges for those with language barriers or limited technological proficiency or access including clearly communicated available alternatives to phone and web interactions.
In addition to these administrative improvements, we also recommend that the legislature take steps to streamline public benefit programs to simplify the application process by eliminating asset requirements and taking steps toward the increased use of data matching. These strategies will both improve administrative efficiency for workers and decrease administrative requirements for clients.
Legislative oversight can play a key role in ensuring that the new system meets the needs of clients, workers and community based partners. We hope that the legislature will work with the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure that the new system does not create or increase barriers to accessing public benefit programs.