that have already started.

States that aren't participating in PARIS have given a number of reasons why they haven't joined. Some said they have more pressing matters, others said information about the program hasn't reached the right people. In addition, some states have avoided PARIS because bordering states don't participate or because there hasn't been any data on potential savings. Many of these reasons point to a lack of effort on the part of federal agencies to promote PARIS. In fact, the Administration for Children and Families, which is the lead agency in the project, has not officially recognized PARIS and devotes few resources to it.

As for communications problems, participating states expressed frustration with attempts to contact other states to resolve matches, while other states submitted data that was incorrect or not up to date, creating problems with incompatible data. Another problem has to do with uncertainties concerning responsibilities for collecting overpayments from individuals.

More problematic has been the lack of management attention to PARIS in some participating states. GAO found evidence that at least three participating states were not making attempts to resolve problems with improper payments that had been identified by PARIS. The problem was particularly acute in the Medicaid program where some administrators made it clear they were focusing on getting people on Medicaid rolls rather than removing recipients who are no longer eligible.

Possible Solutions

To improve the effectiveness of PARIS, the GAO has recommended that Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson provide better guidance to participating states, including efforts to improve communication and coordination and to reach out to nonparticipating states and encourage them to become involved in PARIS. At a minimum, states should provide their TANF and Medicaid recipient data for other states to match, even if they decide not to participate.

Some specific recommendations call for the creation of a clearinghouse to share best practices information among all states so they can improve their procedures, such as comparisons of match filtering systems. HHS should also take the lead in helping participating states develop a more formal set of guidelines for coordinating and communicating with one another once a match has been identified. The federal agency should also become more active in encouraging nonparticipating states to join the PARIS program, while coordinating with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and its Food Stamp program to encourage better participation at the federal level. Currently, there are no statutes requiring states to track Food Stamp payments across state lines.