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Social Services still has computer woes

Donna Gray

While Garfield County doesn’t have the backlog of folks waiting for welfare benefits that seems to be plaguing the Front Range, it’s still under the gun to convert its files to a new and imperfect state computer system.Colorado Benefits Management System, that processes and issues everything from food stamps to Medicaid to old age pensions, is so glitchy a Denver District Court judge ordered the state to set up an 800 number for people whose applications for benefits have gotten lost in the system.For Garfield County, the backlog has trickled to 28 cases, but it still has until Feb. 28 to convert and update all of its 5,000 cases to the new system, said county Department of Social Services director Lynn Renick.”That’s great compared to the thousands of cases in Denver,” she said of the backlog.But with Feb. 28 looming, county social services employees are working feverishly to update the files into the new system.”If we don’t have the cases updated, the case automatically closes,” she said, and no benefits would be paid out. Renick is confident the upgrade can be completed in time. Although she acknowledges that the $200 million computer software was needed to replace the antiquated state system, it is seriously flawed.”It wasn’t tested. It just wasn’t ready, and the training was not adequate,” she said.CBMS went online in September. Among its many flaws was incorrect calculation of individual benefits, Renick said, and notices it generated to welfare recipients were often conflicting.One of the problems Renick has seen in her office concerns Medicaid.Since CBMS does not mesh with software being used by pharmacies that fill Medicaid prescriptions, the pharmacy may have no record of a person found eligible for Medicaid by the CBMS system, she said.Then DSS has to write a letter to the pharmacy saying the person is eligible and meanwhile the person is waiting for their medicine.”It can be potentially risky for some clients because it’s so hard to get through the system,” she said.”It’s being fixed very slowly, but new problems are being generated,” Renick added. Her employees have found ways to “work around” the glitches, however.”We’ve always tried to process (claims) well within the timeframe, but now we’re struggling,” she said.Renick will update the Garfield County Commissioners on the CBMS system and how it’s effecting her office at the commissioners’ regular meeting Monday.Renick will update the Garfield County Commissioners on the CBMS system and how it’s effecting her office at the commissioners’ regular meeting Monday.


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