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Data quality fiascoes continue to plague Medicaid programs

Rachel Wheeler

January 31, 2014

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As the baby boomer generation retires and more citizens begin applying for assistance with health care, it becomes even more important that government offices maintain high standards of data quality. If they make mistakes in collecting and using contact information, they risk alienating people and failing to deliver adequate levels of service.

Such mistakes have made headlines a few times in recent memory. Most recently, an address management fiasco arose in Maryland. According to the Baltimore Sun, the troubled state health exchange recently admitted that a technical error led to Medicaid enrollment packages being sent to the wrong addresses for as many as 1,078 customers.

The incorrect packets included the names, dates of birth and Medicaid ID numbers of the recipients in question. Luckily, they didn't have the people's Social Security numbers or financial or medical information. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said that the mistake could have been worse.

Still, the damage was done for these 1,078 citizens, and the organization's setback has made news statewide. There's debate over how seriously to take the problem - Dori Henry, spokeswoman for the Maryland Health Connection, said the group made "a one-time error" that has already been fixed, but others aren't satisfied.

David Brinkley, the minority leader of the state Senate representing Frederick and Carroll counties, is outraged at the state health exchange, calling the organization "a Pandora's box of problems." He says there is a lot of work to be done to clean up Maryland's data.

"We're just discovering more and more problems, and more and more people have been put at risk," Brinkley told the Sun. "It's absolutely outrageous in a day and age when we're concerned about identity theft and our personal privacy ... It's not a programming error - it's a program error. The whole program is an error." 

Unfortunately, these errors are nothing new. A month ago, a similar story arose in North Carolina. According to Claims Journal, a programming error led to a massive privacy breach as Medicaid benefits information was sent to the wrong addresses of 49,000 recipients.

These disaster scenarios are cropping up all the time. To prevent them, both public and private organizations need to better prepare themselves. By using address management solutions to clean up their data and keep addresses up to date, everyone can steer clear of future problems.

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