Times of Northwest Indiana

Privatization of the processing of applications for food stamps and other welfare programs in Indiana has been rocky.

Democrats in Congress two years ago fought outsourcing of the food stamp program to a consortium led by IBM in a 10-year, $1.16 billion deal.

And now Indiana's top welfare official -- Indiana Family and Social Services Administration Secretary Anne Murphy -- has said the program has so many problems that the state could cancel the contract.

Yet Indiana has no backup plan, Murphy told The Associated Press.

The IBM team has been sharply criticized for losing documents, being too slow to approve applications and being too quick to end eligibility for Medicaid, food stamps and other benefits.

Murphy has asked IBM to prepare a "corrective action plan." She wants changes to be made by the end of September. She's right. Poor performance is inexcusable. It harms the very people the programs were set up to help.

But those who object to the privatization perhaps forget why the process was outsourced in the first place.

Before the contract with the IBM consortium was signed, Indiana's error rates were high, and fraud was a major problem. Customer service was poor, with 65 percent of clients rating their satisfaction with the agency "below average." Lost or misplaced documents were a regular occurrence.

This is not to excuse the performance by the former state caseworkers now employed by IBM.

FSSA needs a backup plan in case IBM fails to meet the terms of its agreement. That doesn't mean that privatization itself is a bad idea, however.

The service should be provided at the most efficiency and least cost, regardless of who ultimately provides the service.

© Copyright 2022, nwitimes.com, Munster, IN