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Paper Monster
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Two paperwork nightmares are in the news this week: Minnesota Care and Cash For Clunkers. Both programs are essentially gridlocked because of the time and staff required to process the large volume of paperwork that both programs require.

Minnesota Care:

"The crush of applicants has doubled the time required to process applications, to eight weeks, and phone lines are often jammed because the agency that manages the program now answers the phone only between 12:30 and 4 p.m. so workers can spend more time on the paperwork backlog, officials acknowledged Monday.

Although the increase in applications was expected, the department has 15 new processors in training to supplement the 114 already on staff, said Lisa Wilder, spokeswoman for the Minnesota Department of Human Services. Another 12 will come on board in mid September."


Cash For Clunkers:
http://tinyurl.com/nn3sdh
"Many dealerships have worked overnight in recent days to submit each trade-in vehicle's 13-page reimbursement application, including the title, proof of registration and proof of insurance."

These are wonderful examples of why I hate dealing with the Federal government and oppose letting them operate necessary functions in our lives unless there is no alternative. How tough is this?

MNCare is means tested and doesn't reject patients for prior medical issues. So how tough is it to identify yourself and your dependents, attest that you have no other source of insurance available, and verify your income? That should be a two pager, at best.

Clunkers doesn't seem to be too complicated either. Who's buying, and who's selling? What are you trading in, what's the EPA/CAFE mileage rating, and what are you buying and what's the MPG of that model. Attach copies of state registration and title. Insurance? Not a federal issue to enforce. What more info do they need? A one pager. Instead, the program ground to a virtual halt because of crashing government websites and backlogs of applications needing to be entered.

Rest assured that most of the mind bending paperwork in these two programs is generated to satisfy Washington DC. Both programs have significant benefits. Both illustrate what a horrendous snake pit of inefficiency, error and glacially slow service that would be multiplied many times over in a single payer health care system.

Be careful what you wish for...


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In defense of MN Care, it's been a pretty smooth operation until the economy turned to shit. It sounds like there's been a surge in demand and the infrastructure just wasn't ready for it. I'll grant you that sort of thing seems to happen a lot with government programs. But it's not like it's unheard of in the private sector.

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I wonder if having the government run by people who aren't ideologically opposed to having the government run things would make a difference in its efficiency. During the Bush years, it was laughable. They went in saying that the public sector is incompetent and should get out of the way. So guess what happened when Katrina hit? The public sector was incompetent and got out of the way, with no one left to fill their void. Would you hire someone as Microsoft's CEO who believes that Microsoft should abdicate all its responsibilities and goals to Apple? I hope not.

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"I'll grant you that sort of thing seems to happen a lot with government programs. But it's not like it's unheard of in the private sector."

Agree completely, Prae. I had an experience recently with a (very poorly performing) mutual fund company trying to retrieve $1800 from a trust fund whose adult trustee had died. Aside from requiring processing fees to retrieve one's own property, they also required absurd paperwork and high test notary services. You'd think they were passing out keys to Ft Knox.

And as I noted in another MN Care post in Politics, I think it is the best available program for local health care delivery we have at the moment, and I'd much prefer to keep its administration at the local level. The big question is why such onerous paperwork is necessary for a program that has rather simple requirements to enter, and has no need to collect complex information on its clients. If it were boiled down to info they really need, it could be collected on an optical scan card and processed in seconds.

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"I wonder if having the government run by people who aren't ideologically opposed to having the government run things would make a difference in its efficiency."

It's a matter of scale and distance, Dora. Remember the old experiment in which people stand around in a large circle and pass around a quote, and check the result at the other end. Inevitably the original phrase gets butchered. One should imagine the same experiment with government, and add in the handing down of a stack of cash to the process with each level grabbing a few notes for their "services".

Just remember the three basic questions MNCare needs to answer to determine eligibility: who are you, do you have other means of insurance, and how much do you earn. How does that translate into a paperwork nightmare requiring 3 months of processing? Keeping in mind, of course, that we're talking about a program that serves 117,000 people, roughly two good sellouts at the Metrodome. If we rough out the number of application processors statewide to 117, and allow two weeks for annual vacations, that's 1000 clients per employee, twenty per week, and a whopping 4 customers per day they need to service. How is that an overwhelming workload? Answer that question, and you're on the road to a solution.

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thrice wrote:

And as I noted in another MN Care post in Politics, I think it is the best available program for local health care delivery we have at the moment, and I'd much prefer to keep its administration at the local level. The big question is why such onerous paperwork is necessary for a program that has rather simple requirements to enter, and has no need to collect complex information on its clients. If it were boiled down to info they really need, it could be collected on an optical scan card and processed in seconds.


I'd bet a lot of it has to do with statistics. Our government keeps statistics on everything at every level.

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