Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Facts Are A Stubborn Thing

FSSA Secretary Anne Murphy has generally been given high marks in her efforts to restore confidence in the agency and salvage the ill-fated welfare privatization agreement her predecessor handed her with a hybrid plan. While Murphy was testifying this week before the House Ways & Means Committee, a Senate Democratic staffer was busy trying to discredit her testimony. The staffer e-mailed the federal regional administrator for Indiana questioning Murpy's testimony.

"She testified that a negative error rate doesn’t necessarily mean that an eligible person didn’t receive benefits… and that a positive error rate means someone got too much or too little in the way of benefits…is that accurate?," the staffer asked. Acting Deputy Regional Administrator Tim English for HHS responded, "Yes, it is accurate." He continued, "As we discussed, the negative error rate includes procedural errors (the case may in fact be ineligible)." "Also, the positive error rate includes both over and under issuances." Picking up on the Democratic theme that welfare error rates weren't a problem until Daniels became governor, the staffer asked English: "She told the Committee that Indiana hasn’t met timeliness standards for food stamps since 2002…is this accurate?" English's response: "Yes, it is accurate."

The Democratic staffer questioned English about whether his agency had given approval to Murphy's hybrid proposal for administering the agency's welfare services following her decision to terminate the privatization contract with IBM. Yes, it had been approved. The staffer wanted to know about the history of Indiana's error rate and whether the state is facing sanctions from the federal government because of its error rate. According to statistics provided by English, Indiana's error rate had actually been worse when the Democrats were in charge of welfare. In 2003, for example, Indiana's error rate was 10%. That compared to error rates under the Daniels' administration ranging from a low of 6.58% to a high of 7.51% last year. As for the timeliness of processing welfare applications, the worst year in recent years was in 2003 when the Democrats were still in charge. In 2003, 79.44% of applications were processing in a timely fashion. That compares to the 85.27% timeliness rate recorded by the Daniels' administration last year.

I suspect the answers the Democratic staffer received from English weren't exactly what she was hoping to learn when she asked them. The facts are a stubborn thing sometimes.

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