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Brooks Schuelke
Brooks Schuelke
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Texas: State of Neglect

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As the legislative session approaches, the Dallas Morning News started a new series that will continue through the end of the month entitled State of Neglect. The summary of the series is as follows:

Texas has long been hard on the weak and vulnerable. It fares badly in national surveys of child poverty, food assistance and care for the mentally ill and disabled.

But it isn’t only the poor and afflicted who need help; everyone relies on state government for some protection.

Not everyone receives it.

Business interests and lobbyists exert strong influence on the writing of laws and the workings of state government.

Who benefits from that? Frequently, not ordinary Texans.

The first part of the series focuses on the state’s outsourcing of services, and it includes this story about a healthcare company:

Evercare rolled out the integrated care program in 13 North Texas counties, including Dallas and Collin, on Feb. 1.

The company was paid $24.99 a month for each person in the program, and the state estimated about 80,000 people would be eligible. Evercare promised to reduce costs and enhance care by assigning Medicaid patients a nurse practitioner or care manager to act as a "personal guide through the complex world of health care."

But with too few staff, phones and fax lines, problems were immediate.

Steven McGee, the multiple sclerosis patient from Fort Worth, received an Evercare packet in early January, in advance of the launch.

That same day, he called Evercare’s toll-free number to sign up with a service coordinator, as instructed.

"The first person I talked to had no idea what I was talking about," McGee said. Neither did the second. Or the third.

"The fourth person thought I was some kind of nut that somehow had gotten through to her office," he said. "So I finally said, ‘I’m holding your pamphlet in my hand. Your logo is a heart with an infinity symbol put into it sidewise.’ And she said, ‘That is our logo.’ "

The Evercare representative put him on hold for a few minutes.

"She came back and said, ‘I understand what you’re talking about now because I Googled it,’ " he said. But when it came to assigning a service coordinator, she said she couldn’t help.

It’s a sad day when medical care representatives learn information about their services not from their employers, but from Google.