by Jerry Owens, Card Services Director, and Sylvia Mitchem, Program Manager
It has been six years since the Federal Government released details of the Healthy Hunger Free Kids act mandating that all state WIC programs implement EBT by 2020. As the deadline approaches, agencies are working to not only implement a program that adheres to federal mandates but meets the specific needs of their individual program
While the basic online WIC solution is fairly standard, many states have specific issues they are trying to address with their implementation. These issues may relate to any number of nuances, including:
- how they currently issue benefits
- how their WIC organization is structured
- limitations of their management information system (MIS)
And while budgets are always a consideration, corners can’t be cut at the expense of WIC program operations or participants. So, how can you implement a program that is specific to your agency but doesn’t break your budget?
We recently discussed how a core EBT system can help lower implementation costs while still procuring a complete and upgradeable WIC EBT solution. Another way to minimize costs and still get a custom solution is to structure your RFP/requirements in a way that allows vendors flexibility in how they respond. Describing what the eWIC system needs to address and providing the EBT processor the opportunity to describe how they will satisfy that need allows the EBT processor to propose innovations the WIC agency may not be aware of. It also gives the EBT processor the freedom to identify an existing straightforward solution from their portfolio, therefore reducing costs.
For example, Oklahoma WIC uses a new mail-order solution to efficiently handle the issuance and redemption of special or medical infant formula when it is required due to allergy or other reason. Previously, special orders were manually placed by phone and vendors were paid outside the redemption process, causing incomplete data in the system. But by allowing flexibility in the solution approach, we were able to design an innovative solution that improves Oklahoma’s mail order formula process as well as the management and reporting of the associated data.
Our innovative solution accommodates the special order complexities and automatically records transaction data. Oklahoma WIC now fulfills mail-order formula needs easier, faster, with quicker settlement, accurate reporting, and efficient ordering and distribution. They’re a leader and innovator with other programs aiming to replicate their success through similar implementations. Had they been more restrictive in their requirements, the ability to develop such an innovative solution would not have been possible.
Here are key “dos and don’ts” to keep in mind when structuring an RFP:
- Include all the “must haves” in the RFP. The cost is lower to implement functionality at the beginning than it is to add it later on.
- Spend time defining the specific reports that are needed in EBT, especially those related to Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) reporting.
- For innovations, non-standard tools or optional functionality, include a section for both specific optional offerings and any optional offerings the EBT processor would like to describe. Pricing for these optional items can be done separately so they don’t impact the overall cost and can be selected à la carte, so you only pay for those that are implemented.
- Be aware of other RFPs released in the same time period. Responding to multiple RFPs requires significantly more resources and could result in a vendor having to pass on an RFP due to lack of resources and time.
- Repeat the same requirements in multiple areas.
- Request functionality that may not be needed. Attempting to replicate a paper process in an electronic environment results in inefficiencies.
- Include requirements in your RFP simply because they were included in a RFP you’re using as a guide. Adding functionality that isn’t needed will drive up costs.
- Rush the process. Be sure to provide enough time to receive a quality response and the opportunity for vendors to put their best response together.
Also, it’s best to include some pricing guidance so a pricing structure can be determined that fits funding needs. For example, if a state has federal funding for system implementation the RFP should clarify that all implementation costs should be included in the upfront fees and only the cost of ongoing operations should be included in the “cost per case month” (CPCM). Since the CPCM comes out of the state NSA grant, it is better in the long run to use as much federal implementation funding as possible up front so agencies can achieve the lowest CPCM pricing ongoing.
If you have more questions about transitioning your program to WIC EBT, you can email us at jerry.owens@xerox or firstname.lastname@example.org.We’ll also be at the upcoming National WIC Association Conference in Cincinnati on May 22 through 25.
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