Results of resourceful response to one state’s challenge could help others reap benefits

Commonwealth Medicine is now ForHealth Consulting at UMass Chan Medical School. More information available here. This content has not been updated with the new name.

Last year, I was proud to be part of a team who received a 2020 Commonwealth Citation for Outstanding Performance from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  We were recognized for designing and executing a project that created tens of thousands of EBT and Pandemic-EBT cards for families in urgent need of food assistance while schools were closed during the COVID-19 crisis.

Our state agency partner recognized our dedication to this vulnerable population, our expertise in securely managing sensitive client data, and our ability to quickly mobilize and problem-solve, and they sought us out to help support our state and its residents.  In doing so, I was reminded of the resourcefulness Commonwealth Medicine showed in 2012 to take action in a similar way.  Up until then, the Social Security Administration (SSA) handled the management and issuance of Massachusetts State Supplement (SSP) payments, an additional benefit the state pays to augment federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits to low-income elderly, blind, and disabled individuals.  We saw a better way to benefit the state and these residents, and at Commonwealth Medicine, we had the ideal combination of resources, inter-agency relationships, experience, and ingenuity to design a State Supplement Program we could fully operate in the state.

Methods that help Massachusetts serve as a model for others

To create the SSP program, our team applied our collective knowledge gained from years of experience in other state agencies and public service sectors to develop a detailed conversion plan for Massachusetts that integrated the interests of all stakeholders.  We prioritized program features to maximize savings and other identified needs and then set to work building and implementing all aspects of the program, from client services to program integrity.

Along the way, we cultivated valuable expertise in database management, particularly working with the federal State Data Exchange file and integrating federal data with state data systems and information in a way that maintains the integrity and security of the data and clients’ personal information.  The result: more than $190 million in SSP administration cost savings in nine years of operations and a more customer-centric program.

Solutions for challenges facing supplemental payment programs

Commonwealth Medicine’s business model means we have expertise and established relationships in the public service sectors of numerous states across the country.  Other states could achieve substantial outcomes as well.

SSA charges a state a per-transaction fee to administer its supplemental payment program, and that fee increases annually.  Like Massachusetts, many states have converted all or most aspects of their supplemental payment programs from federal to state administration.  A customized and comprehensive approach that leverages the expertise available in established public service agency relationships and experience – like what Commonwealth Medicine began providing Massachusetts in 2012 – yields numerous benefits, including:

  • More responsive customer service
  • Improved data integrity
  • More efficient program operations, including accurate and timely case updates
  • Better validation of program beneficiaries’ living arrangements
  • Enhanced coordination among state agencies serving the same population
  • Cost savings

Today, the Massachusetts SSP offers its direct beneficiaries improved services and all residents the financial benefit of a cost-effective operation.