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Public health programs have clear need for better address management

Richard Jones Archive

Address management solutions can benefit organizations in every sector, both public and private. In the business world, they can help companies improve their marketing strategies, by reaching out to customers with accurate contact information. In the public realm, they can help the government deliver important social services that citizens need.

Take public health, for instance. Programs such as Medicare and Medicaid work by providing quick, reliable assistance to medical patients who need it. Without correct addresses for these people, the programs will be ineffective. If a patient's address is outdated, misspelled or mistakenly attributed to the wrong person, these programs' administrators will be unable to deliver resources to people in the timely fashion they expect.

Address management is the key to fine-tuning these programs, as it can help public authorities cut down on erroneous deliveries and eliminate wasted time and money. But all too often, this step is neglected, leading to catastrophic mishaps.

For example, consider the case of the state Medicaid office in Missouri. According to the Jefferson City News Tribune, state officials were forced to notify 1,357 participants in the program that some of their personal information had been mailed to incorrect addresses. Their names, birthdates, account numbers, phone numbers and the last four digits of their Social Security numbers were all included in mailings that were sent to the wrong people.

MO HealthNet, the managed care service for Medicaid clients in St. Louis and 43 counties, wasn't able to provide more detailed information about who the clients are or where they live. A news release from the organization said that one of its contractors, Infocrossing Inc., sent the information in error because of a software programming mishap that's since been corrected. But the damage has already been done, and citizens in Missouri are now left with doubts about the reliability of their public health programs.

Officials at MO HealthNet apologized for the mistake, and the organization said in a statement that they have "no reason to believe that any identity theft or other wrongdoing has occurred as result of this incident." But the bureau still felt obligated to offer clients free credit monitoring services for two years in an effort to save face.

This problem could have been avoided in the first place, though. With more emphasis on data quality and money in the budget for address management, the Medicaid office could have eliminated this mistake before it became a more serious problem. This is hardly an isolated incident, and public officials everywhere could learn a thing or two.