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County could lose employees with state shift

November 30, 2012
MICHAEL ANICH , The Leader Herald

JOHNSTOWN - The Fulton County Department of Social Services could lose more than half of its staff members who handle Medicaid cases because they want jobs with the state, which will take over Medicaid administration from localities by 2018.

The possibility of several vacancies was broached by DSS Commissioner Sheryda Cooper at the Board of Supervisors' Finance Committee meeting Monday morning. She came to the committee requesting the filling of seven vacant positions, some dealing with Medicaid, and the committee granted them.

"I'm in a bit of a dilemma here," Cooper told supervisors.

Article Photos

The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich
Fulton County Department of Social Services Commissioner Sheryda Cooper, at left with her back to the camera, speaks to the supervisors’ Finance Committee on Monday.

The DSS commissioner said nine of 14 of her Medicaid staff members have interviewed for state jobs. She said she wants to get a start on possibly filling her vacancies by coming to the Finance Committee.

Cooper said there have been no resignations yet, but "they're pending."

"They just haven't gotten their start dates yet," she said.

Cooper told the board's Human Services Committee in August that over a six-year period, the state will take over administration of Medicaid from local DSS units. A 2011 state law ordered transfer of responsibility for administration of Medicaid from local DSS districts to the state Department of Health by March 31, 2018.

Citing examples of her situation, Cooper told the Finance Committee on Monday that a social welfare examiner in her Medicaid Unit was offered a DOH position, and she indicated the worker will take the state position.

The state reimburses the county 100 percent of the worker's $28,812 annual county salary. But with that person leaving, it is anticipated an employee currently in a temporary social welfare examiner position would be appointed to fill the void left in the permanent position. Cooper said that will result in a temporary vacancy.

In another situation, Cooper said, a senior social welfare examiner in the Medicaid Unit interviewed with DOH for a position for the state Medicaid takeover. She said that person indicated her references are being checked and DSS anticipates her being offered the position. That $31,790 county position also is reimbursed 100 percent by the state.

Cooper said this summer the state Medicaid takeover has been confusing, and her department is feeling its way through the situation. Meanwhile, she said, as she loses more employees and tries to fill gaps left by temporary or permanent vacancies, ongoing local Medicaid work must get done.

"We are changing the way we're doing our work," Cooper said.



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