California Healthline Daily Edition

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DHCS Launches Updated Phone System for Medi-Cal Beneficiaries

The California Department of Health Care Services has launched a new phone system that can handle hundreds of more calls from Medi-Cal managed care beneficiaries, HealthyCal reports. Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program.

Background

In June, a report released by the California State Auditor found that the phone system for Medi-Cal managed care beneficiaries was not adequate, with an average of 12,500 calls going unanswered each month from February 2014 to January of this year.

The audit called on DHCS to upgrade the system.

The fiscal year 2015-2016 state budget included funding to make nine temporary positions related to the phone system permanent, but it did not increase the number of staff in the office.

Details of New Phone System

The upgraded phone system was launched on Sept. 30, and DHCS plans to add more new features this month.

According to DHCS, the system can handle 500 calls at one time, compared with the previous system's maximum of 30 calls at a time (Guzik, HealthyCal, 10/5). The system also will:

  • Determine the demand for services;
  • Measure the number of abandoned calls and wait times; and
  • Store data from calls and emails online (DHCS briefing, July 2015).

According to HealthyCal, it is unclear how the stored data will be used or who will have access to the information.

Advocates Still Have Concerns

Advocates are cautiously optimistic that the new system will help, but they say the phone system still is understaffed.

Linda Nguy, legislative advocate at the Western Center on Law and Poverty, said, "I look forward to seeing some of the data that comes out from the new phone system, but I don't think the current staffing is sufficient to address current demands," adding, "There's still the same number of people working the system so that doesn't mean people will necessarily get help sooner."

However, DHCS spokesperson Carol Sloan said the department has "the right processes and sufficient resources (employees) in place to staff the phone lines appropriately" (HealthyCal, 10/5).

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