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Washington’s Agency Consolidation—what does this mean for IT?

In her proposed 2011-2013 budget, Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire recommended the consolidation of 21 state agencies into nine agencies. This consolidation would save approximately $30 million and would eliminate an estimated 125 positions over the next biennium. For the state's Central Services Agencies, the consolidation would reduce five agencies to three. According to the Governor's Office, this consolidation would save approximately $18.3 million and reduce 95 positions.

According to Gov. Gregoire's plan, portions of the Department of Information Services will be included in the new Department of Enterprise Services. The new department will take over certain services, such as printing, that are currently conducted separately by each agency. The Department of Enterprise Services will also be in charge of procurement and contracting.

The Office of Financial Management will remain largely as is, maintaining control of the budget, policy, forecasting, statewide accounting, and state IT policy and project management. The newly formed Consolidated Technology Services (CTS) Agency will house the state data center, network and telecommunications, IT security, and email. The goal of CTS, according to the Governor's Office, would be to "begin to privatize and further standardize the basic technology that state agencies use." The director and governing board of the CTS will decide which services can be provided internally and which must be procured.

GovWin's Take

While this money-saving option sounds promising, what does it mean for IT in Washington state? It's possible that the reduction in staff will cause initial problems with responsibilities divided among fewer people, and there will likely be a transitional period for all involved to adjust to the changes. The decisions made by the newly created Consolidated Technology Services Agency could also significantly impact the number of services and projects contracted out by the state. Since the recommended consolidations still have to be approved, it's probably too early to speculate on what may or may not happen; however, if all goes well and the consolidations turns out to be a solid financial decision, we may see more states attempting to consolidate on some level given the current economic environment.

Overview of the 2011 eHealth Initiative Annual Conference

The eHealth Initiative (eHi) convened at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington D.C. on January 19-20 for its 2011 Annual Conference: Turning Policy into Action. With casual glance around the ballroom, one could quickly see that turning policy into action was more than a clever tagline. Sitting side by side were providers, insurers, government bureaucrats, consultants, entrepreneurs, vendors, and innovators with a vested interest in a successful American health care system.

The eHi is a membership driven, not-for-profit that focuses on driving improvement in the quality, safety, and efficiency of health care through information and information technology. It engages an array of stakeholders in the health care market to have discussions on progress and innovation. In total, the conference boasted eight panel discussions and two keynote addresses, all equally informative. On average, each panel had four guests.

The first impression one gained from the many discussions was that stakeholders, representing nearly all sectors of the market, feel rushed by reform. Nowhere was this more evident than in discussions about meaningful use. Providers and vendors are feeling the pinch from federal standards and timelines that many believe are unattainable. The panel was dominated by those who claimed it was not feasible to attain meaningful use with a certain vendor in the timeframe allotted.

Secondly, it was clear that a wholesale cultural change was necessary to really reform health care in the United States. This was dwelt on by the majority of panelists, and will be the subject of a separate blog posted in the coming days.

Thirdly, there was broad agreement among the conferees about the role of the patient in the reformed health care model. Specifically, it was contended that patients are an "underutilized resource" who must be engaged to make any reform successful. These broad themes gave way to other meaningful panel discussions including: the outlook for health care policy in the 2011 Congress, a conversation with the chief privacy officer on privacy and health information technology (HIT), care coordination in the real world, creating accountable care organizations, and HIT progress and barriers at the state level. Topics covered in all panels will be highlighted in an analyst recap from my colleague and fellow conference attendee, Amanda White.

As the highlight of the two-day conference, the eHealth Initiative secured National Coordinator for Health Information Technology Dr. David Blumenthal as the keynote speaker. Dr. Blumenthal focused on the advent of what he calls the "era of meaningful use." Shaking off the apprehensions of the harried crowd, Blumenthal shared a high-level overview of meaningful use that focused on benefits and improving our health care system. Blumenthal used his time to assure that a purpose lies behind the swift timetable for achieving meaningful use. The obvious purpose is the enhancement of care for Americans. For Blumenthal, a fortuitous consequence of the push for meaningful use is the widespread collaboration of the health care industry to achieve a common purpose.

According to Blumenthal, the "era of meaningful use," for all the difficulties it has incurred, has a transformative impact on American health care delivery in which quality will be unmatched by any single reform in history. Furthermore, the two-day conference made clear that policy has undoubtedly turned into action. Indeed, to amend Blumenthal's phrase, the "era of meaningful use" is an era of widespread action.

For GovWin's in-depth analyst recap, click here.

State of Connecticut looks to Next Generation 911 Project Refresh

In July 2010, the Connecticut Department of Information Technology released a request for proposals (RFP) for a statewide Next Generation 911 (NG911) system. At that time, GovWin estimated the state would award a contract to a vendor in late 2010 or early 2011. As it turns out, the state opted to cancel the RFP and proposals, and with that, seemingly waste a significant amount of time and money from its own internal processes and the vendors who submitted bids.

State officials understood that moving to NG911 was a necessity, and therefore reignited the project on January 24, 2011. The Connecticut Department of Public Safety issued a request for information (RFI) in order to gain better insight on the vendor community's NG911 solutions and develop a more pointed RFP.

Before covering the resurrection of the state's NG911 project, it is important to understand the significance of moving through a solicitation process, only to cancel all that time and effort. GovWin recently blogged about a metro payment system for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, in which the agency will be utilizing a multistep process. Multiphase approaches to large-scale communications systems are somewhat common, but what is becoming even more noticeable is the movement toward several RFPs, or an RFI and RFP, that move the agency in the same direction. It is understandable that state and local agencies, strapped for cash, want to ensure they develop a system that will be cost effective and function properly, but spending an additional six months or a year in the RFI review process may turn out to be more costly. For more details on this project and other state's phased approaches, visit GovWin's Analyst Perspectives. (Subscription to GovWin State & Local Industry Analysis required.)

Recently, GovWin's health care and social services team learned of a large-scale project out of Arkansas that will result in the release of more than 20 RFPs, all of which will be issued simultaneously (current estimate is January 2011). While the cost of such projects may be greater, the use of this type of procurement could in fact save the agency money in the long term. It remains to be seen the level of strain these nearly two dozen RFPs will place on the agency.

GovWin's Take

To reiterate, GovWin does not suggest all agencies use consultants or RFIs as the first step in their IT initiatives, but early planners should at least consider these options. In a time when budgets are in the red all over the country, each and every dollar should be spent efficiently. While many agencies, including Connecticut's IT and Public Safety Departments, may have the best intentions in mind, a more calculated approach can save money and save lives.

What does this "Sputnik moment" mean for states and localities?

When it comes to divining the impact on state and local governments, most state of the union addresses require a lot of reading between the lines. Last night's address was no different. Given the split partisan control of Congress, it is hard to tell what, if anything, will come from this year's address. Yet, we can still make some educated guesses.

"We'll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology--an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people."

These investments, which Obama mentions exclusively in the past tense--will likely be in the form of competitive grants for which public universities, private universities, non-profits, and companies will be eligible to compete.

"Maintaining our leadership in research and technology is crucial to America's success. But if we want to win the future--if we want innovation to produce jobs in America and not overseas--then we also have to win the race to educate our kids...And Race to the Top should be the approach we follow this year as we replace No Child Left Behind with a law that's more flexible and focused on what's best for our kids."

Sounds like a pretty significant revamping of federal education policy, which will affect state and local governements. RttT was a competitive grant program, but if it replaces NCLB, then it will affect how all the federal formula assistance is doled out to states to pass through to local education agencies and school districts. If it includes "partnerships" between states and unions, as did the competitive grants, then it could also change the relationship states have now with unions. With most of the governorships and legislatures in GOP hands, more charter schools--maybe even vouchers--will be a definite precondition for any support of RttT. That could get interesting!

"And this year, I ask Congress to go further, and make permanent our tuition tax credit--worth $10,000 for four years of college. It's the right thing to do."

Sounds impressive but $10K for 4 years of college isn't much help. Public universities and community colleges have seen their state funding slashed, so they will use this to raise tuition, cancelling out any net benefit in terms of institutional spending. He talked also of revitalizing community colleges to help with job retraining but didn't mention any specifics.

"Now, I strongly believe that we should take on, once and for all, the issue of illegal immigration. And I am prepared to work with Republicans and Democrats to protect our borders, enforce our laws and address the millions of undocumented workers who are now living in the shadows."

Many of the newly-elected Republican gubernatorial candidates talked about this issue. If something significant actually passes Congress (doubtful) related to illegal immigration, then there may be money for states, especially in the training programs that allow them to enforce immigration law. Obama is not the first President to want to deal with this issue "once and for all," and he will not be the last.

"The third step in winning the future is rebuilding America. To attract new businesses to our shores, we need the fastest, most reliable ways to move people, goods, and information--from high-speed rail to high-speed Internet...We'll put more Americans to work repairing crumbling roads and bridges. We'll make sure this is fully paid for, attract private investment, and pick projects based [on] what's best for the economy, not politicians."

Sounds like Stimulus II or maybe "Son of Stimulus." Could the administration articulate any program that would garner significant GOP support? My Magic 8 Ball says, "Ask again later." You can expect a lot of governors to test his mention of "private investment" with more requests to convert busy sections of interstates into toll roads. So, far House Republicans have not weighed in on how they'd like to see broadband funding move forward, if at all. At a minimum, I expect them to push against any further funding for municipal broadband projects.

"This means further reducing health care costs, including programs like Medicare and Medicaid, which are the single biggest contributor to our long-term deficit. The health insurance law we passed last year will slow these rising costs, which is part of the reason that nonpartisan economists have said that repealing the health care law would add a quarter of a trillion dollars to our deficit. Still, I'm willing to look at other ideas to bring down costs, including one that Republicans suggested last year--medical malpractice reform to rein in frivolous lawsuits."

Are more cuts to Medicaid coming? If so, you can expect more attention to MMIS and anti-waste, fraud, and abuse efforts, but many governors are reaching the point where they will simply slash eligibility and tell the fed to worry about it. We'll be watching to see if reforms to health care reform boost the prospects for state health information exchanges and state health insurance exchanges.

"We live and do business in the Information Age, but the last major reorganization of the government happened in the age of black-and-white TV. There are 12 different agencies that deal with exports. There are at least five different agencies that deal with housing policy. Then there's my favorite example: The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they're in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them when they're in saltwater. I hear it gets even more complicated once they're smoked."

Another page from the governors' playbooks--when you're in trouble, reorganize! At minimum, it can take several years just to get the reorg done. Nor do the savings accrue instantly. You have to work out the kinks. If you're seeing bankable ROI after five to seven years, you're doing well. The potential downstream impact on state and local IT systems that support federal programs could be a nightmare. Politicians never think of these implications until it's too late. As a state CIO once told me, "They think it's all people, furniture, and office space."

"If a bill comes to my desk with earmarks inside, I will veto it. I will veto it."

Earmarks are a key component of funding for Justice and Public Safety initiatives. But, despite the President's forcefulness, they are not going anywhere. Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, said it best: "The earmark is dead. Long live letters from senior legislators to federal agencies endorsing key projects."

As always, we'll be following the latest developments in each of these concerns right here on this blog.

The State of the Union Address: What It Means to Government Contractors

While the president newly embraced the concepts of American greatness and exceptionalism, he warned us that the world has changed and that the nation must be prepared to face unprecedented global challenges. Toward this end, Mr. Obama believes that we must invest in innovation, ease the path to job creation for businesses, make hard decisions about reducing the federal deficit, and streamlining and simplifying the way government does business.

HIGHLIGHTS

Innovation

The president's budget will include investments in information technology to spur productivity and clean energy technology to break our dependence on foreign oil. In education, he urged the Congress to continue funding for the 'Race-to-the-Top' program and expand tax credits to offset the expenses of a four-year college education. For infrastructure, he called for additional funding for transportation, but added the goal of expanding wireless coverage to 98 percent of Americans within the next five years.

Becoming More "Business Friendly"

Mr. Obama also called for reducing the burdens on business by simplifying the tax code, lowering corporate taxes, and eliminating unnecessary regulation. Other than plans in play to analyze the burden of regulations on small businesses, no specifics were offered. He also set forth the goal of doubling exports by 2014, and urged the Congress to approve the trade agreement with South Korea as well as other such pacts he plans to pursue in the coming years. And, in a bow to critics of Obamacare, he acknowledged that some flaws, like the bookkeeping reporting requirements for small businesses, need to be fixed while vigorously defending the healthcare overhaul.

Federal Deficit

Shifting his focus to America's debt, the president conceded that it is a mounting problem that needs to be addressed, but that he largely inherited it from his predecessor. In order to put America's fiscal house in order, he proposed a five-year freeze on discretionary spending and made it clear that he was willing to cut "excessive spending" wherever it may exist, but that he will not allow the budget to be balanced "on the backs" of the most unfortunate. He also indicated his support for Social Security reform provided it did not reduce coverage or benefits, and did not entail any degree of privatization. Again, in an effort to move beyond his base, he embraced the concept of medical malpractice reform in order to lower medical costs, but used the occasion to defend Obamacare as a means to balance the budget. Finally, he promised greater transparency in spending and the activities of lobbyists, vowed that he will veto any bill that contains earmarks, and reiterated his opposition to extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy beyond two years.

Federal Reorganization

Seeing competent and efficient government as essential to the task of a creating an America that can compete in a global economy, Mr. Obama will send to Capitol Hill a proposal to "merge, consolidate, and reorganize" the federal government. Of course, the devil is in the details yet to be released.

GovWin'S TAKE

The president used his recent political setbacks and the vigorous and heated state of our political discourse as a celebration of America's uniqueness and greatness--that it is symbolic of the strength of our system, not a weakness. By embracing the constitution and the 'American Dream' in his rhetoric, he tried to place himself within the American mainstream while implying that his agenda will enable us to remain great. However, while Mr. Obama hit many of the right notes, all will depend on the details. The biggest criticism is the dichotomy of 'investing' while reducing spending. Given America's fiscal condition and the stated position of Republicans in the Congress, that will be a major sticking point. As the president conceded, the current targets don't really address the main fiscal issues; deep cuts in spending are required to eliminate the deficit, much less pay off the accumulated debt. It remains to be seen if Republicans are serious about tackling profligate spending and are willing to absorb the political body blows that are coming their way. If not, any cuts will be minimal.

Regardless, it seems likely that funding opportunities for government contractors will continue--one way or the other. However, contractors will undoubtedly be required to work harder for the win and withstand significant scrutiny of performance to justify costs. While a freeze on discretionary spending may have some impact, the level of current spending has expanded some 25 percent (excluding the stimulus bill) over just the past two years. This sets two very distinct tones within the budget debate: the president conceding the "need to freeze," yet at current spending levels that will provide some latitude for investments in innovation, technology, and infrastructure versus the Republican leadership citing FY2008 (and in some cases FY2006) spending levels as the target.

While the extent of the proposed cuts mentioned last night (which included those recently announced by Secretary of Defense Gates) won't be seen for a few weeks, Mr. Obama stated that he will consider any proposal to cut more and tough decisions needed to be made. The good news for contractors is that he sees investment in IT as essential to America's ability to compete and innovate so it isn't likely that he will propose major cuts in this area. IT investment will not only be important for global competitiveness but to support his proposal to consolidate and reorganize government, which will require considerable IT spending to the extent that it is embraced by the Congress. Accordingly, it seems unlikely that contracting opportunities will dry up significantly in the shorter-term; rather they will adapt to fit the House Republicans' agenda more so than the president's.

Predictive policing becoming more popular and redefining the term "planning" in public safety

For a large majority of public safety agencies, the term "planning" typically gets lumped into some sort of homeland security mitigation or response plan. Due to this, agencies have begun planning for how they will react to an event, as opposed to how they can proactively deter that event from happening. Across the country, public safety agencies are realizing the benefits of proactive planning as it relates to policing the streets. What is now known as predictive policing has become an effective way to not only curb crime, but cut agency policing costs.

One agency that has implemented predictive policing is the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). The LAPD utilizes a predictive policing method known as COMPSTAT, or computer statistics, which takes a set of crime data and maps it to determine hot spots or areas of concern. The philosophy behind this program emphasizes holding police managers directly accountable for combating crime in their designated area. In order to be effective, police managers and officers need to return to the idea of proactively fighting crime rather than just reacting to it.

Some components of predictive policing include:

  • Hot spots and crime mapping
  • Data mining
  • Police deployment of manpower
  • Statistical probability
  • Geospatial prediction
  • Social network analysis

The success of the program rests solely on agencies' current infrastructure for data capture. For example, if an agency does not have a robust records management system, or data is not entered with a high level of consistency or completeness, the capability to map that data might be compromised. The same goes for if an agency does not have an upgraded computer-aided dispatch system to capture a caller's information. Finally, if an agency does not have a scalable and detailed mapping or GIS system, it is nearly impossible to implement this program in a rapid and effective manner. The goal of predictive policing is to better utilize resources, which allows an agency to get more out of its expenditures.

GovWin's Take

Vendors will need to work with agencies to ensure all components of a predictive policing plan are in place. This means working with the agency to ensure it is fully upgraded in its current data collection environment and has completed the necessary training to ensure accurate data recording. Also, vendors will need to work with agencies in identifying additional funding to pursue this tactic. In FY 2010, the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) had three grant programs aimed at improving policing efforts. It is unclear if these programs will be available for FY 2011. Chances are there will be more grant programs that focus on innovative policing measures that keep officers on the streets.

Gov. Cuomo lays out ambitious agenda for New York state

As you probably know, GovWin compiles (with a keen eye toward IT implications) the major initiatives announced as part of the governors' state of the state addresses and other speeches where they detail their agendas. New York state's Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) kicked off the speechifying season with his New Year's day address. In a year where most pundits are expecting nothing but gloom and doom, he layed out an agenda that was equal parts retrenchment and ambition.

Here are a few select highlights from among the 23 key agenda items.

  • Create regional economic development councils that are empowered to allocate resources.
  • This administration will propose the Spending and Government Efficiency ("SAGE") Commission whose charge will be to undertake a comprehensive review of every agency of state government and recommend structural and operational changes to it. It will reduce the number of agencies, authorities, commissions by 20 percent.
  • Competitive funds, totaling $500 milliion, to incentivize management improvements and complement the objectives of the Race to the Top program.
  • "Create the "Share NY Food" Community Supported Agriculture ("CSA") program. CSAs are partnerships between farmers and customers where consumers purchase a season's worth of crops in advance. Expanding opportunities for the acceptance of SNAP and WIC EBT cards at farmers markets."

I'll admit that I take pride in the last bullet item. Last may I blogged about a similar initiative in western North Carolina that was attended by a USDA deputy secretary. Who'd have thought it would become a major initiative in the Empire State? You'll always hear it here first.

To see the rest of Gov. Cuomo's agenda (and to follow our national coverage in real time) click here*.

(*Note: Subscription to GovWin State & Local Industry Analysis required.)

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority enters first stage of new payment system

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has been working toward a new electronic fare collection/open payment system since 2009, and has reissued a request for proposals (RFP) that will be the first of two solicitations.

In 2009, the WMATA issued an RFP to establish an initial set of requirements and specifications, and give vendors the opportunity to submit their proposals and be listed as a qualified vendor. Following the first phase, the WMATA anticipated issuing a second solicitation in order to award a contract to develop and implement an electronic fare collection system. However, the WMATA opted to cancel all bids and reevaluate the first phase specifications before the second RFP.

On December 30, 2010 – approximately a year and a half after the initial RFP release – the WMATA issued a new set of specifications that will allow the agency to review vendor's proposals, engage vendor suggestions, view various presentations, and discuss how they may develop the RFP for the second phase of the project.

While it is not common for an agency to engage vendors in a two-step process for a project, due to the length of the procurement cycle and hours required, the WMATA considers the revamping and upgrade of the payment system to necessitate the two-step process. A longer process will bring more costs to both the WMATA and vendors involved in bidding. Allowing vendors to comment and provide their own ideas almost acts as a request for information; however, in this case, the first phase allows the WMATA to determine which vendors can bid on the second phase.

GovWin's Take

It is important for state and local agencies taking part in a costly large-scale project to ensure they implement the most cost-effective and efficient solution, especially in times when budgets are strained. Vendors who submit proposals for phase one of this project will essentially be assisting the WMATA in developing the specifications. More agencies may look to a multiphase approach in order to guarantee implementation is a smooth and cost-efficient process.

Law enforcement agencies board the social media train

Think about the amount of time you spend reading missing person or most wanted flyers on storefront bulletin boards. Then think of how often you read through the morning paper's headlines. What about watching an entire newscast? Now, take all that time and compare it with that spent checking Facebook or Twitter. For many, there's no competition. Just as radio conquered newspapers, and television overtook radio, the Internet continues to dominate as a one-stop shop for news, networking, entertainment, and even solving crime. The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) recently conducted a survey on law enforcement's use of social media, and it's no wonder a whopping majority (81%) of agencies reported frequent use.

Last year, GovWin reported on social media's rise in public safety, and the IACP's survey results further support our initial findings. The report outlines results of an electronic survey sent to 728 law enforcement agencies – mostly municipal police departments – from 48 states and the District of Columbia. The agencies reported use of social media for a variety of tasks, including crime and emergency notifications, soliciting tips, background investigations, and community outreach (all in the 37-44% range). The most widely reported use of social media was for crime investigations (62.3%).

Facebook buries its competitors when it comes to social media tools, with nearly 67 percent of agencies reporting use. Twitter and Nixle come a distant second at just under 30 percent, while MySpace, YouTube and LinkedIn fall in the minority. Facebook's reign is no surprise. With more than 500 million users worldwide, why wouldn't law enforcement agencies get in on the action and heighten visibility? Instead of relying on newspapers and TV, agencies can increase coverage through quick posts that filter to hundreds of their followers' news feeds. The AMBER Alert Program recently launched a Facebook page where users can "like" certain states and receive alerts regarding child-abduction cases.

A random search on police Twitter accounts brought up a feed for the Milwaukee Police Department with updates on a homicide investigation, a firearm offender, the city's 10 most wanted criminals, and new police officer graduates. With each bit of news condensed to 140 characters or less, readers get a swift rundown of events without having to sort through lengthy articles or wait for the six o'clock news. Posting missing person photos, surveillance videos, fugitive mug shots, or the latest crime and emergency reports all on one page is efficient and timely, especially with so many people opting to scroll through social media during a break instead of opening a paper. These sites also allow users to quickly respond to inquiries, message their own leads on investigations, and report area incidents.

Though not every agency has boarded the social media train, many are close to buying a ticket. Nearly 65 percent of the agencies surveyed started using social media in the last two years. Of the agencies not currently utilizing social media tools, 61.6 percent are considering it, and most of those agencies (52.4%) plan to establish a presence within the next year. Resource constraints on time and personnel are the reported main obstacles in launching social media practices, followed by security and privacy concerns.

Although still in the early adoption stage, a majority of agencies (45.3%) have already reported social media as a successful component in solving crimes. Nearly 32 percent of agencies reported no success, and 23.1 percent are still unsure. In addition to assisting in investigations, 42.5 percent of agencies reported social media tools as helpful in improving police/community relations.

A surprising result of the survey was that despite its popularity, the majority of agencies (41.7 %) do not currently have a social media policy. However, 23.2 percent reported they are in the process of developing one.

GovWin's Take

The use of social media in public safety not only heightens news coverage and community awareness, it also cuts costs for many departments forced to drastically crunch budgets. Whether you're on board or not, it's safe to say there's no stopping social media's global influence. Several companies are in the early stages of developing software to track social media feeds and provide data analytics on reported emergencies in attempts to improve response time. Some agencies are even getting in on the mobile phone application craze. The San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District recently launched an iPhone app that provides real-time access to reported emergencies. What started as a social networking outlet has branched to a common business device, and is now becoming an everyday tool for increasing public safety.

GovWin Pulse: Looking Forward to 2011 in Health Care and Social Services

The end of 2010 saw plenty of activity in the health and social services markets, and the beginning of 2011 is no different. Besides making painful budget decisions when it comes to health and social services, states are readily gearing up for implementation of the health care law.

We will see much activity around health insurance exchanges in 2011 as states prepare for the readiness determination deadline in January 2013 and the go-live deadline the following January. About half the states have filed a federal suit claiming the health law is unconstitutional; however, some states are moving right ahead with needs assessments and gaining consensus on direction. New Hampshire's insurance exchange business design will be ready in early 2011 with plans for implementation later this year. Iowa aims to launch a pilot in early 2011, but enhancements are needed to meet federal requirements. Some states have been busy gathering meetings and creating focus groups to obtain GovWin for advisory boards and policy makers. States are looking to their legislatures and those advisory groups for recommendations on how to move forward.

California was the first state to pass legislation to authorize the exchange and has organized an executive board to oversee implementation. One decision for states to make is whether to govern the exchange through an existing state department, create a new one, or create an independent nonprofit. North Dakota's legislature will be making the decision on if the state will run their exchange and which department (insurance or human services) will receive the resources and budgets for the initiatives. Likewise, Colorado is looking to its 2011 legislature for its governing structure. Maryland created an advisory board that released recommendations on how to implement health reform in the state and suggested introducing the exchange as a public entity verses a private nonprofit organization. Oregon, too, has created an advisory group to assist the Oregon Health Authority plan for the state's exchange. Illinois released a planning solicitation for its exchange last month, along with another solicitation for a needs assessment for continued planning for the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

States will need to determine if there is a need to develop a new IT system or if existing systems can be adapted for the exchanges' purpose. Other opportunities related to the ACA that will begin to surface over the next year include business requirements for eligibility systems to support Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program and interoperability among the insurance exchanges, health information exchanges, and Medicaid management systems.

As for the social services market, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported the Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program (previously known as Food Stamps) hit a record high toward the end of 2010 with 43.2 million people receiving assistance. This presents human service agencies with a challenge at a time when funds are tight. However, some counties, like San Diego were able to find efficiencies with their system, though there has also been an increase in reports of fraudulent activities in states. Upgrading technologies such as business intelligence systems, coupled with the use of geographic information systems and electronic benefit cards can assist in reducing fraud. North Carolina released a request for information in December 2010 to expand the use of plastic card technology as a cost containment strategy for food programs and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), which is another assistance program stretched thin in these economic times. The TANF program is due for reauthorization in September 2011, and states will be busy this summer submitting detailed reports to Congress to use in examining the legislation to reauthorize the program.

Also in 2011, contingent on the availability of funds, the USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) plans to competitively award grant funds to Women, Infant and Children (WIC) state agencies to support WIC Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) project planning activities. These funds will prepare states to meet the mandate that all WIC agencies have statewide EBT by 2020, which was signed into law through the Child Nutrition Act by President Obama in December. Nineteen states are in planning stages for the WIC EBT. See GovWin's WIC Application Profiles for further activities. In December, we saw Iowa release a request for proposals for a planning contractor for WIC EBT. Oregon also released a solicitation for consulting services as it looks to move to a Web-based FNS-compliant system that is EBT-ready. With nearly half of the states lacking WIC EBT activity, there's plenty of movement to come with these EBT initiatives. All in all, 2011 will be a year of much anticipated activity in the health and human services markets.

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