June 29, 2017

Rauner’s privatization scheme goes bad

Gov. Bruce Rauner rushed to privatize state employee and retiree benefits administration, outsourcing the work from Springfield to a call center in Georgia—part of a $94 million contract with a foreign corporation called Morneau Shepell. The Associated Press reported that the state’s high-priced portal is pretty much a mess.

In the fall of 2015 the Rauner Administration rushed to enter into a contract with Morneau Shepell that was supposed to “modernize” operations. The contract wasn’t competitively bid and overrode requirements for minority participation. It was with a foreign company with its US operations based in Georgia.

What was the rush? The administration of health care benefits staffed by CMS employees seemed to be operating just fine. There were few problems—and when problems did arise, a single phone call usually got them straightened out.

Once Morneau Shepell took over, though, there were problems aplenty. The company's work has been riddled with errors.

As the AP reports: “State workers complain of a gummed up system that has rejected coverage without notice…” Now employees who have benefits questions have to talk to someone in Atlanta—and too often problems go unresolved.

"Aaron Runge, a correctional officer at Menard prison in southern Illinois, visited the website in November to add the family’s new baby as a dependent,” said the AP report. “He didn’t submit a required birth certificate and wasn’t notified that his application was incomplete. By the time he learned, Morneau Shepell said the baby’s $2,000 in medical bills couldn’t be covered retroactively. Runge got the situation rectified through a grievance handled by his union.

"'With the old system, you didn’t have to deal with a company out of Atlanta, Georgia. They could care less,' Runge said. 'You lose the personal touch and knowing that your situation is covered.'"

Member and Retiree Alert: Watch for mistakes by health benefit vendor

The Rauner Administration’s zeal to privatize the administration of group health benefits via a hastily-implemented contract has resulted in a multitude of mistakes, often to the great detriment of the affected employees.

The CMS Benefit Choice period concluded on May 31. Given all the problems that have arisen with Morneau Shepell, all employees and retirees should carefully review their benefit enrollment information and monitor paycheck deductions over the coming weeks to ensure you are enrolled correctly for the upcoming 2018 plan year which begins on July 1, regardless of whether you elected to make any benefit changes in May.

If you experience any problems or have any questions, you can contact the MyBenefits Marketplace Service Center at (844) 251-1777. In addition, contact Martha Merrill, Director of Research at Council 31, at 312-641-6060 so that AFSCME can continue to monitor and help resolve issues arising from Morneau Shepell.

AFSCME has a grievance awaiting an arbitrator’s decision due to the employer’s failure to notify the union when this privatization scheme was implemented.

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