County DSS ahead on N.C. FAST

Feb. 06, 2014 @ 04:52 AM

The Rutherford County Department of Social Services (DSS) has become one of the leaders in the state for correcting backlogs with the rollout of North Carolina Families Accessing Services through Technology (NC FAST) system.

Despite a number of issues on the state level, Rutherford County had just one timely pending recertification cases and two untimely cases, as of Tuesday.

Throughout the state, however, there have been issues with keeping current with rectification of food stamp and Medicaid re-certifications. In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has mandated all backlogged applications of over 90 days have to be completed or the state will lose federal money.

“We’ve had a lot of bugs in the system, with the overlay of Medicaid on top of Food and Nutrition,” said county DSS Income Maintenance Administrator Candy Bridges.

Across the state, there are nearly 3,500 pending applications awaiting input into the N.C. FAST program with roughly 32 re-certifications remaining to be processed.

Now, however, DSS is gearing up for a potential hard launch of the Medicaid program through NC FAST. Currently, the North Carolina Division of Medical Assistance is awaiting a response from the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) to postpone the hard launch, which is scheduled for this month.

DSS has requested — and county commissioners approved — additional staff in the county’s Medicaid program because of an increase in applicants and increased information that will be gathered as part of the Affordable Care Act.

DSS officials said there are over 45,000 applications at the Federal Facilitated Marketplace to be transferred to North Carolina with an estimated 250 applications coming to Rutherford County.

If the extension to the hard launch is approved, the county will add four additional income maintenance caseworkers and one supervisor ($87,019). If the extension is not approved, county DSS will have to add seven income maintenance caseworkers and two supervisors ($158,248).

“Our Medicaid staff will double up their Medicaid work,” Bridges said. “They will have twice the caseload to get the applications in the system.”

Rutherford County Manager Carl Classen said the county will gain additional revenue whether the extension is granted or not. If the extension is approved, the county will receive an additional $326,000 in revenue. If it isn’t, that increase in revenue is projected to be $255,000.

Commissioners approved implementing the plan if the extension is approved with the added provision of putting the plan in place if the extension is not.

“We will have to be up and running and will only implement Plan A on the short term,” Classen said.

Commissioners were concerned over having a dedicated revenue stream to pay for the increase in workers. However, because the Federal Financial Participation rate for Medicaid is expected to increase from 50 percent to 75 percent, the county will save over $400,000.

“Our workers have been very determined and they don’t want the system to get the better of them,” said County DSS Director John Carroll.