Expensive computer system likely to pay big Medicaid savingsPIERRE — The $76 million conversion of South Dakota’s computer system for Medicaid is on schedule and should be ready to roll out for use by health care providers and recipients next year, state Social Services Secretary Deb Bowman said Monday.
By: Bob Mercer, Republic Capitol Bureau
PIERRE — The $76 million conversion of South Dakota’s computer system for Medicaid is on schedule and should be ready to roll out for use by health care providers and recipients next year, state Social Services Secretary Deb Bowman said Monday.
Bowman and senior members of her staff briefed members of the Legislature’s Government Operations and Audit Committee on the massive overhaul project codenamed MedX. Social Services has relied on its present Medicaid management information system since 1981.
She said her goal for rolling out the system, which participants will access through the Internet, is to avoid the massive problems South Dakotans endured two years ago, when the state Division of Motor Vehicles converted its license plate system without making a test run.
Rodger Leonard, a former state budget director who is helping oversee the Medicaid system’s conversion, said MedX should pay for itself in seven to eight years through actual cost reductions, efficiencies, avoiding unnecessary costs and better management in general.
The main contract for the new system is $62 million, according to DSS officials, and the price tag for all work associated with the project is estimated at $76 million. The project is being funded 90 percent by the federal government, with DSS covering the remainder.
Roughly one in seven South Dakotans is a Medicaid recipient, and that number of 130,000 people has been increasing as the recession continues.
Bowman said the new system is set to go “live” in February 2010. The design is 90 percent complete, she said, and an advisory panel of people from about 60 medical providers and organizations are assisting in the design and testing.
“They’re all focusing on their expertise area,” she said. “This is going to be a totally different system than what we’re used to or they’re used to.”
Fo r instance, providers can look on the Web site to see if a claim submitted to DSS has been allowed or flagged, and the provider can adjust the claim through the Web site to comply with DSS. There are about 10,600 providers who currently deliver services for reimbursement from the Medicaid system in South Dakota.
On the other side, Medicaid recipients will be able to use the Web site to check the status of a claim. Currently, the DSS consumer office averages about 1,000 calls per month from recipients. Computer kiosks will be set up at DSS local offices throughout South Dakota for Medicaid recipients to use.
Regional training for providers is scheduled for January in Watertown, Pierre, Sioux Falls and Rapid City. Bowman said she doesn’t want South Dakota to have the problems that have occurred in other states. “It’s a huge project. We’re working hard,” she said.
Meanwhile, South Dakota’s license plate mess remains fresh in legislators’ minds as they discussed the Medicaid conversion. “Let’s get it right before we go live with it,” Rep. Paul Dennert, D-Columbia, said.