Massachusetts State Supplement Program

Monday, February 8, 2016

Situation

The Massachusetts State Supplement Program (SSP) is a federally mandated state cash assistance program that serves more than 200,000 low-income, elderly, blind, or disabled residents. SSP pays a monthly supplement, which ranges from $30 to $400 depending on eligibility, and confers eligibility for related benefits, primarily Medicaid and food stamps.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) traditionally operates federal assistance programs on behalf of states, and the fees can cost millions of dollars each year. In Massachusetts, the estimated SSA cost per payment, relative to average payment amount, would be approximately 15 percent.

Solution

SSA managed the SSP program for Massachusetts since its inception in 1974. In 2010, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services transitioned all program administration to UMass Medical School, allowing the state to save millions each year in program administration and SSA fees. For example, in 2009, the charge to the state by SSA was about $20 million, and would have been nearly $30 million in 2015. In 2015, UMass billed the state only $7.3 million, saving the state nearly $23 million.

Results

  • We proposed and built a unique automated, centralized benefit determination system driven entirely by data input and supported by inbound and outbound telephone services.

  • We re-engineered and created a new federal data file, used by the state for eligibility purposes, to automate eligibility determination using proprietary logic.

  • We persuaded the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance to allow direct electronic deposit of benefits, resulting in major savings for direct electronic deposit. This approach also avoided significant political issues and accounting intricacies related to EBT cards.

  • We instituted an AGILE application development methodology, which merged program and information technology staff, to build the core system application, interfaces and utilities.