PIERRE -- A state government agency is seeking the Legislature’s authority to hire more technology personnel for two key missions.
Three would work to secure databases and networks against tens of thousands of cyber attacks every month.
Two others would assist with start-up, and then help oversee, a new computer system that’s been in the works since 2008 for processing Medicaid claims.
The five new positions would bring the state Bureau of Information and Telecommunications to a total work force of 353.5 full-time equivalents.
A private company known as CNSI was awarded the South Dakota contract for the Medicaid system five years ago. The contract was reported at the time to be worth up to $67 million, with 90 percent of the funding to come from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.
The new system was scheduled to go live in late 2010. Instead, the contract wound up in a lawsuit between the company and the state Department of Social Services. BIT officials are scheduled in the next two months to come up with a work schedule to get the project back on track.
BIT’s deputy commissioner, Jim Edman, met Wednesday with the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Appropriations. He was asked by Rep. Mark Mickelson, R-Sioux Falls, whether a lead person for the project has been hired and when it will be done.
Edman said Social Services is interviewing for the position. As to a start-up date, Edman said, “That is a very loaded question.”
“There have been many regulatory changes that have occurred since the ‘time-out’ a few years ago,” he said.
The new system replaces one that has been in place 30 to 40 years, depending on the components. The goal is to process claims faster, deliver checks to providers in shorter times and reduce fraud.
Rep. Phyllis Heineman, R-Sioux Falls, asked whether Social Services will be able to find economies in its work force with the new system. Edman said the question would be better asked of Social Services.
Eligibility assistance and determination for Medicaid clients are a separate project. Edman said BIT also is involved in the analysis for that.
CNSI is the company developing the software for the Medicaid claims system and has done it for other states. Their existing application will be customized to fit South Dakota’s processes, Edman said. After that, a different contractor will be hired to support it going forward.
There are 25 software products that fit into the core of it, Edman said.
Defending against cyber attacks requires more attention from BIT. The monthly attempts to hack into state government’s systems range from 30,000 to 100,000 in a month. Edman described cyber crimes and attacks as “the 21st century version of war.”
Most of the attacks stem from China.
“You can tell there is a particular country in the Far East and that is a regular, that makes a regular occurrence,” Edman said. “State and nation espionage is very real.”
One technique is known as spear-fishing, where an email is sent with a link inside. If the recipient clicks on the link, there is a connection to a website that attempts an attack.
“The creativity of the bad guys out there will continue to get more and more,” Edman said.