COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina's Medicaid agency is making it easier for people to apply for and renew coverage through the government health care program by moving the enrollment process online, officials told The Associated Press on Thursday.
The automation also will allow the Department of Health and Human Services to shift some employees from processing paperwork to initiatives intended to improve patients' health and lower costs long-term, said John Supra, the agency's deputy director and chief information officer.
"We spend an awful lot of staff time moving paper around," he told The AP ahead of Friday's official announcement. "We need staff out in the community working with citizens, not sitting in county offices."
Beginning Oct. 1, residents can go to a Web site to determine their eligibility and sign up for the insurance program for the poor and disabled, then later renew if they remain eligible. Those who aren't computer savvy or lack access can continue to submit the paper forms, Supra said.
The agency has contracted with IBM to provide the software and maintain the system, easing the agency's workload beyond less paperwork and one-on-one help with applications. The company, rather than agency staff, will also make any programming updates to account for changes in state or federal policy, Supra said.
The agency will pay IBM up to $22.8 million over the next seven years for software licensing, annual maintenance, and support, according to the agency.
Residents may eventually also be able to use the Web site to determine eligibility for welfare and food payment programs through the Department of Social Services — as neighboring North Carolina already does. The software allows for multiple connections, Supra said, adding that discussions with DSS are in the works.
Other states contracted for the system include Arkansas, Maryland and Minnesota.