April 18, 2011
QUESTIONS FOR DSS COMMISSIONER NOMINEE
By: Robin K. Cohen, Principal Analyst
Susan Price, Senior Attorney
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SERVICES (CGS § 17B-3)
The commissioner is responsible for administering social services programs, including those funded by the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant and Medicaid; promoting economic self-sufficiency; facilitating communication among federal, state, municipal, and private entities; and applying for and receiving federal funds.
QUESTIONS CONCERNING AGENCY ORGANIZATION AND FUNCTIONS
1. What do you see as DSS' strengths and weaknesses? What leadership and management skills do you bring to this position that will enable you to maximize those strengths and reduce the weaknesses?
2. Has the human services infrastructure helped the agency do a better job in meeting its mission?
3. DSS has the state's largest budget (over $5 billion in FY 11) and is charged with providing a safety net to the state's most vulnerable residents. Given the severity of the state's fiscal crisis, what actions will you take to reduce costs without shredding that net?
4. The governor has proposed consolidating most of the functions of the state agencies serving the blind and hearing impaired into DSS. How would you ensure that the individuals and families previously served by stand-alone agencies, and by most accounts served well, continue to be satisfied once DSS takes over these functions?
5. As commissioner, what will be your three highest priorities? What specific changes would you like to make in how the department operates?
6. What do you see as the major barriers to increasing child support collections and what might be done to remove them?
7. There has been a long-standing debate about the pros and cons of privatizing DSS services. What do you feel are the pros and cons?
8. The state has adopted Results Based Accountability as its methodology for measuring program effectiveness. Did the Kansas agency you ran have such a procedure, and if so, how well do you think it worked? If the agency did not use RBA, what other measures of program performance did it use?
9. DSS is a highly unionized work environment. Was the same true in Kansas? What do you think are the best practices for maintaining a positive relationship with the unions that represent your employees?
QUESTIONS REGARDING AGENCY PROGRAMS AND SERVICE DELIVERY
1. The state has been slowly re-balancing the long-term care system to spend less on institutional care and more on home care. At the same time, the nursing home industry has suffered from inadequate funding for years and several have gone into receivership or closed. What are your plans with respect to the rebalancing effort? How will you balance the plans with efforts to ensure that nursing homes receive adequate funding so the state's frailest citizens can get quality institutional care when they need it?
2. The HUSKY program has been through tremendous upheaval over the last several years. Can you tell us a little about what has been happening with the program as it relates to MCOs and ASOs? Do you support removing MCOs from the program? If so, do you believe an ASO model is the right approach?
3. The state Supreme Court has ruled that the state law restricting aid to legal immigrants living in the country for less than five years is constitutional, thus allowing DSS to provide medical assistance to a much smaller group of legal immigrants. Do you believe the state has an obligation to provide medical assistance to all needy legal immigrants until their five-year wait for federal benefits is up?
4. The TANF block grant has been supporting the state's welfare-to- work program for 15 years. Is there anything you would ask Congress to do to make the program work better for those who benefit from it?