Politics

Earlier this year, first grader Cora Maddox stopped receiving Medicaid benefits that helped pay for treatment of her apraxia, a brain disorder that affects her speech and motor skills.

Cora’s mother, Angie Maddox, a web designer from Boone County, had to supplement what the family’s private insurance wouldn’t cover for her child’s tube feedings and therapy sessions — a total of $1,500 a month that had previously been paid for by Medicaid.

Cora was one of thousands of Kentuckians who lost services while the state transitioned to a new one-stop portal for welfare benefits called Benefind, which was designed by previous Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration and rolled out in the first months of Gov. Matt Bevin’s.

“All of Cora’s information from the old system never got transferred to the new system,” Maddox said during a legislative hearing on Monday. “Everything was gone.”

Cora’s benefits have been restored since June, but Maddox says she still gets confusing letters from the state saying Cora’s benefits are being reviewed or have been denied. She said she even got a letter from the state incorrectly saying that Cora had died and that the state would be starting an investigation.

“I wasn’t even sure how to proceed with this one, so I just set it aside and did nothing,” Maddox said.

The next day, Maddox received a letter saying that the investigation was complete and that Cora would once again receive benefits.

“These glitches are a big deal,” Maddox said. “This is happening to families across the state. Many families are not fortunate enough to have the time to commit to getting it fixed because of other responsibilities.”

Benefind launched in late February and erroneously sent out about 25,000 notices to people saying that their benefits had been canceled. The state also had to work through a backlog of about 50,000 cases created from conflicting information from newly merged systems. The administration says it cleared the backlog in mid-May.

The $100 million program was the product of an initiative by the Beshear administration to combine the application and management of several welfare programs under one roof.

Bevin administration officials say they didn’t know about Benefind’s problems before the launch. Delaying the new system would have cost about $3.5 million in personnel and maintenance costs for each month they delayed, officials say.

Deck Decker, technology director at the state health cabinet, says that Benefind’s glitches “should have been looked at before it went live.”

“Unfortunately it wasn’t this administration that processed it,” Decker said. “We walked in on this issue.”

Decker said that the system is still having trouble processing applications for long-term care — like nursing homes — and home-based Medicaid waivers. Cora receives the home-based waiver, which gives benefits to people with disabilities so they can remain in their homes.

Rep. Addia Wuchner, a Republican from Florence, said the state should apologize to Kentuckians who have lost benefits through the Benefind transition.

“Sometimes just to hear from government that we are so sorry, we made a mistake, explaining what happened sometimes clears up the angst that people have,” Wuchner said.

Later during the committee hearing, Medicaid Commissioner Steve Miller apologized to Maddox.

Deck Decker encouraged anyone encountering glitches in the Benefind system to email him at Deck.Decker@ky.gov.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.