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In this week’s Friday Five, MAXIMUS is reading about the risk of discrimination from artificial intelligence, using unclaimed property to pay child support debts, improving customer service at the IRS, a CMS policy change that improves access to addiction treatment, and an increasing reliance on telehealth services in rural communities.

1. The push for explainable AI

It’s becoming more common for organizations to use artificial intelligence – specifically algorithms that analyze information, identify patterns, and make predictions to expedite or inform decision making. But bad data or learning protocols can result in inferior and even discriminatory results. To combat this, GCN reports experts recommend focusing on “explainability,” where an organization can prove it knows what information the algorithm is considering. Bills have been introduced in both the House and Senate to create regulations and plans for how developing AI technology can be used. 

2. New process uses parents’ unclaimed property for past-due child support

In Missouri, the Department of Social Services and the State Treasurer’s Office have partnered on a new automated process aimed at improving child support collections. KOAM News reports that past-due child support cases are electronically matched to the unclaimed property database. When a match is found, the money is transferred to the Department of Social Services. More than $2 million was applied to nearly 19,000 active child support cases.

3. President Trump signs Taxpayer First Act

President Trump has signed a bill that requires the IRS to create a new customer service strategy. According to NextGov, the strategy must include steps to improve secure taxpayer assistance and adopt best practices of customer service from the private industry. In addition, it provides authorization for hiring temporary employees who specialize in information technology.

4. CMS policy change improved addiction treatment access

In 2018, CMS stopped approving Medicare Part D formularies that required prior authorization for buprenorphine (a drug used to treat opioid addiction) more than once a year. Modern Healthcare reports this caused the number of plans who required authorization for the brand name drug to fall from 88% to 3%. A new study finds that removing authorization will likely lead to 30% more people receiving treatment and in turn, reduce deaths due to substance abuse by 50% or more.

5. With rural healthcare stretched thin, more patients turn to telehealth

A recent poll conducted by NPR and its partner organizations found that a rising number of patients, particularly in rural communities, are using telehealth services. Reasons respondents gave for doing so included it was the most convenient way to receive treatment or a diagnosis, they couldn’t see their provider in person, or difficulty traveling to the doctor’s office and/or hospital. Many payment policies have not yet caught up to the technology, which is particularly burdensome in rural areas that tend to have less access to healthcare professionals and specialists.