Missouri takes e-transaction leap

Missouri could be the first state to provide end-to-end service for unemployed people to file initial insurance claims via the Internet.

So far, more than 3,000 people have used the service (www.dolir.state.mo.us/es), launched in mid-December, said Randall Wilkerson, information technology supervisor at the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. However, the state receives more than 300,000 initial claims annually, and the department is aiming for a 25 percent Web usage rate after more marketing of the system, Wilkerson said.

Claimants using the telephone system normally spend about 10 minutes on the phone giving data, such as Social Security number and date of birth, via an interactive voice response system and talking with a claims technician. With the Web-based system, that time has been reduced to "however long it takes [the user] to enter the data" he said.

"If the load's real heavy, the wait time on the phone is a little longer," he said. "This is giving people another avenue, another way of filing claims."

Wilkerson said it frees up time and money for state workers as well.

Missouri and seven other states each received a $500,000 federal grant in fall of 1999 to automate labor department processes. He said Missouri used the money to improve firewalls, security and Web servers, and to contract for training.

Wilkerson said several other states have similar Web-based systems, but usually a claim technician must re-enter users' information into a database.

He said future enhancements to the Missouri Web-based system would include claimants using the Web for follow-up calls instead of using the telephone voice-response system.

Several department staff members spent two months at IBM Corp.'s e-transaction Processing Center in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., learning how to integrate the system with their IBM S/390, which they had been using for 20 years.

IBM consultant Paul Wanish said the center chooses "first of their kind" applications and tries to teach customers how to develop online services using their current servers.

"The reason we like to do this is because it gives IBM an opportunity to show the breadth of technology that we can bring to solve the problem," he said.

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