In January 2011, I had the pleasure of being hired by a company who had a contract with Maximus. Maximus was hired by the state of Massachusetts, an outsource agency to handle MassHealth customer service, under EOHHS.
[Executive Office of Health & Human Services]
MassHealth is the Medicaid program for low income, pregnant, HIV+ constituents of Massachusetts. EOHHS houses several states funded programs, such as, DTA, DCF, DMH, MCB & DYS.
[Department of Transitional Assistance, Departments of Children & Families and Department of Mental Health, Mass Commission for the Blind & Department of Youth Services]
For 2 1/2 years I worked for Maximus. Maximus is an agency that helps government state funded agencies when inept or ill equipped to handle it on their own. The motto for Maximus is:
Helping Government Serve The People
The conditions of the Maximus office on 55 Summer St was atrocious. We had a 30 minute lunch hour and 2 fifteen minute breaks. Our days were scheduled months in advance. We absolutely didn’t have a set time for breaks or lunches. They were different, everyday. We basically were told when to pee and when to eat. The only exception was a 40 minute window for any possible bathroom or uncontrolled emergency that would keep us off our scheduled phone shift.
The employees had strict guidelines for customer service, under the Quality Assurance department, that worked closely with the head office in Quincy. When I started I recalled it being about numbers. They desired that your call needed to be less than 6 minutes per call and that you had to service more than 65 people a day. Over time that was changed from a more number focused, to quality.
Within 6 months of me starting, I was hired as a permanent employee; things like benefits and vacation/sick leave was offered.
Maximus HQ in Reston, VA, decided to change the vacation/sick time. It had been separate before, then they lumped it together. The guidelines were that if you decided to leave, quit or be fired you could take your sick time via pay, but NOT the vacation time.
[Does that make sense?]
Also, when hired you were pre paid upfront to catch up w/ the current pay period, so, if you decided to leave or if were terminated, they’d take that final check back.
[Does THAT make sense?]
In the beginning, I didn’t see myself working for Maximus, long. I initially hoped to move on quickly but in 2011 the job market was still extremely volatile and you had to stick in, where you could fit in. I got accustomed to the conditions and I actually liked my team, my supervisor and our new call center manager, Kelley Kivior.
Being a customer service representative, we couldn’t really help the members with eligibility of MassHealth just educate on the program, its policies, rules and guidelines. Educate on the health care plans, the benefits and assistance with locating MassHealth providers, under the PCC plan
[Primary Care Clinician Plan]
We would of course transfer those to the respect MEC, so they could speak with an Eligibility Specialist to resolve their issues.
[MassHealth Enrollment Center]
I wanted to step my game up. I had a conversation with my then supervisor at the time, Odair Santos:
I want to do more than just take phone calls, Can you help me?
Odair: As long as you put in the work, I’ll see what I can do.
Within the next year I was part of projects, helped trained new customer service representatives and was looked at as a leader for my team.
[A title which, I didn’t want want nor did I claim for myself]
Maximus then hired a new project VP, Ellen Eisner. Things were changing. Odair had moved on to Quality Assurance and we got a new team supervisor, Darren Wilkerson.
[Derwood, in minds eyes]
I was then applying for positions and was overlooked by others who spent less time at Maximus, then I. Management told me to take it and stride and to work harder, but I’d already been getting my QA scores and getting 100% on 1 or 2 calls they monitored on a monthly basis. I was doing an excellent job. I did what I was told and more so.
A friend of mine, at that time worked for MassHealth directly. He encouraged me to apply to the Taunton office that he worked in. I had enough of Maximus stringing me along. I’d seen it so many times. The people with awesome work ethic, on time, who’d bend over backwards at the request of management would be overlooked, time and time again.
It was bad enough we were underpaid. The work load was tremendous and we weren’t a unionized group. I was placed in Provider class, as to appease my dissatisfactions with management and the games.
My friend reached out to me again in March and said, please apply. I did. April 1st was my interview. I’d gotten cold in the office and pretty much stayed to myself. I did not engage in any factions of any sort with management. They completely continued to manipulate and lie to me over and over.
I was offered the job at MassHealth, the first week of May via a telephone call from KimMarie Mercure, as a BERS and I was going to start May 28, 2013.
[Benefit Eligibility & Referral Social Worker]
Joy. Relief. New chapter.
The excitement within me was incredible. I wanted to be able to help customers. Go over their forms, applications and stubs to determined how they could qualify based on the guidelines set orth by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
This job would change my life and I really wanted to be an honest servant and service Massachusetts under the civil servant mentality.
I’d hope with my customer service knowledge, that Id be an effective tool and use at the Taunton MEC because they hadn’t hired anyone from Maximus to that office before.
I was extremely naïve. It was the devil I didn’t know. Word got around in Maximus that I was offered the job. My supervisor came to me worried because Kelley had heard, that I was offered the job at the state, and that I wasn’t going to put in my notice. He pretended not to know anything and mentioned that Kenneth Fisher could place a call over to the state to rescind my job offer, saying something, like he’s a trouble maker, etc.
Later, he told me and I was shocked. I knew I was making the right decision in leaving.
My group started that day, May 28th. We were introduced to the entire staff, from HCR, LTC & Intake team.
[Healthcare Reform, under 65 population; Long Term Care, over 65; Intake, nursing facilities, etc]
We’d met previous via interview but met again, Justine Ferreira, KimMarie Mercure and we finally met the MEC director, Cheryl Titus. The feeling I felt about finally being able to help. It meant something to me.
We met some of the other management staff; LeNay Harper, Susan Bishop & Leonard Gollis. Justine and LeNay were Managers, under HRC. Sue and Len were supervisors.
Our training started in June. Lynn LaPearle was new newly hired Taunton MEC trainer.
Our group commuted to Quincy & Chelsea for our HCR training. I did extremely well on the test because I had knowledge of the program working at Maximus. It was a large group and Lynn covered the rudimentary parts of program, eligibility, category, income and FPL levels.
[Federal Poverty Level]
It was a lot of information and of topics didn’t come up during training. The Taunton MEC has hired 9 new BERS. A lot of time and attention wasn’t spent on us individually.We had to have HCR fast tracked into our head before ACA had gone live in January 1st, 2014 and before training started in October 2013.
[Affordable Care Act]
It was a ton of information and training was only 6 weeks long. Lynn was excellent but the training was extremely poor and I feared that I was going to have a hard time with the material.
Cheryl Titus and I had 1 run in. I’d never forget it. Justine had told me to tell the others what she wanted us to do with undeliverable mail. I sent an email and somehow she got CC’d to it. She called me, while I was processing work to visit her.
She basically told me I had no authority and what gave me the right to send out an email and that I was new and she runs the office.
I apologized and told her I was only following instructions per Justine and it wasn’t my intent to step on any toes. After that I avoided her. I wanted nothing to do with such a maniacal, egotistical woman, bent on destruction.
Weeks later she noticed I was short with her and to a point trying to avoid her.
We had a talk in Justine’s office and I had explained that I was embarrassed [I lied] and I didn’t want to show my face. Basically. She apologized at how she came off to me and that was that.
I knew then she didn’t like me and somehow, deep within me, I knew she was going to try everything to get rid of me.
I remember talking with a co worker, named Mike. I had an honest conversation stating, I’m afraid I’m not doing anything right. I hadn’t sat down with anyone since after 4th of July.
LeNay Harper was released from MassHealth, while were in training in Chelsea. It was apparently such a big deal, they changed the keypad code to all the doors to make it just 1 universal code.
Her replacement was Janice Pothier-Pac.
Janice harped on me on a weekly basis about how I was doing, what I needed help w/ how I could get my error rates lower, etc. It was a nightmare. She was new and had no idea, as a manager how to meet my needs. I told her one day in a meeting.
I explained that I was stressed out and I felt like she couldn’t help me and was useless, in terms of making sure I could do my job effectively. How could I tell her my needs? I didn’t know what I was lacking. She was MY manager. She was supposed to know by looking at the numbers.
Sue was sitting with me daily to correct my errors the week before and I just wasn’t making any progress and very little effort was made to cultivate a working system for me to get better. Sue would teach me the way to process then I had another supervisor tell me I was wrong and I was just… lost. I had asked over coworkers when I had issues or questions with 1040, paystub or self declaration of employment and everyone seemed to have different answers and none of which was taught to me or shown was correct. It was all wrong and I had no hope of getting it, right.
I had spent July and August, doing what I thought was correct and now I had to start over. It was frustrating, daunting and scary. Janice kept saying. You’ve got a month before we can continue you past the probationary period, if you don’t I fear you’re not going to make it.
My friend had moved on from MassHealth and except for my friend Kate, I was alone. I as scared and I didn’t know what to do. I had developed migraines that crippled due to the stress and constant panic Janice Potheir-Pac put me thru. She was a troublesome busy body. She lacked boundaries or personal space.
She’d manage to alienate us all from her and we avoided her as much as possible. A few days later I got a letter from Cheryl. It was a verbal warning about my work, my attitude and how I talked down to Janice. I was livid. Everything stated in the letter wasn’t even the truth. I had told her these things in confidence and she used it against me, to get me out the door.
I knew not to trust Janice. She was a snake in pretend form. She kept with the fake niceties. She pretended to do everything she could do to help, so it could be documented and reported back to the state and Union 509, when they let me go.
We’d had a union meeting and I brought up my concerns and fear. I saw down with the chapter president and vp and told them exactly what had been going on. They knew I was from Maximus and they knew I was extremely bright. They didn’t know what they could do to help and technically, if Cheryl wanted me gone before the 6 month probationary period, she could do it. It was her word, against mine, along with record and documentation.
I paid 509 union fees for completely NOTHING. The union can’t help you until you’ve passed probation. They will definitely take your money tho, prior to that with NO PROBLEM.
That moment on, I decided to have a union reps with me every meeting after that to protect myself. I hated how they twisted everything in their favor and made me out to be the troublesome nightmare.
They decided to spit the floor up, section it by groups and manager. They divided us up by categories: HCR, LTC, ACA.
The nail on the coffin was the day I was speaking with a coworker who knew my struggle and I was extremely frustrated and burnt out and I had stated how I hated how Janice had made me feel. Wouldn’t you know Janice walked into the break room, as the words flew out of my mouth. I knew that was pretty much it.
The next day, after the morning shift was over, Cheryl called me into her office, I had asked two of my union reps to come with me. The minute Cheryl and KimMarie saw their faces, they completely shifted gears. I was being let go, handed me an envelope and that she’d walk me to my desk to gather my things. That was it.
After months of being singled out and picked on and everyone wondering why I was having so much trouble when they knew I was great.
I was relieved.
Let’s back up. I will explain something about the Taunton MEC office. Cheryl Titus has the office divided. It’s a digital sweat shop. They have 10 lines for answering member calls, all day long. while the rest could be doing processed of HCR/ACA/LTC/Intake.
The first floor is strictly HCR and LTC and the 2nd floor is In take, etc. We barely associate with each other unless it’s an entire office meeting.
The LTC workers are getting the same pay HCR workers are. They are doing work in MA21 Paces system, assets, etc.Taunton MEC is the ONLY office has has this set up. It’s a small group of people.
The staff is completely over worked, stressed and run down. Majority of the day we’re confined at our desk. It’s frowned upon to be at other co workers desk, even if their flag isn’t up indicating a phone shift.
The day is split in half. 8:45 am to 1 pm and then 1pm to 5 pm. A schedule was done a month in advance indication if you had to either do the phone shift, walk-in’s or processing.I came from a call center. I’ve spent 8 hours a day, 5 days a week on the phone. A few hours was of no issue to me. At all.
I love what MassHealth represents and the good that Medicaid does for the people of Massachusetts. What I hate is how people like Cheryl Titus. She runs that office with an iron first. Nobody is happy and in the end the workers can’t do or say anything because the current union contract expired on December 31st and the new contract for 2014 hasn’t even been established.
The other MEC offices aren’t run in such a manner and the workers a bit more happier. I’d NEVER recommend anyone going to Taunton as long as Kim Marie, Janice, Cheryl were in that office. They do a grave injustice to the workers and to the people of Massachusetts on Medicaid.
The very thing I had come to enjoy was taken from me by Taunton. I don’t even love being in Massachusetts anymore. They’d taken away me being a productive civil servant. They took away me being able to service the MassHealth constituents, newly ACA members. I may never be able to or desire to work in healthcare again because of Cheryl Titus, KimMarie Mercure and Janice Potheir-Pac.
Who knows? Maybe Kelley Kivior did tell Kenneth Fisher to call Quincy and report me.
I wanted to get my story out. I felt like it was important to tell my side of the story. I may have not been he first they’ve done this to, but I definitely won’t be the silent one either. Quincy, EOHHS has vindictive, spiteful, manipulative staff at Taunton. They truly don’t care for their work force, so that should tell you how they care for the members.
It’s all about numbers.