Opinion: NJ Vaccine Hotline Cost $90M of Your Tax Money — For What?
My teenage son started working last year. First job. He asked about this mysterious W-4 he needed to fill out. When I explained it was for taxes he said, “But I don’t pay taxes.”
Well, you do now, I told him. Then we had a conversation about what they do with all the money they take. I explained, in theory, it’s for good things like maintaining our roads, maintaining a military to protect us, keeping us safe when we fly with air traffic control and TSA.
In reality, I went on explaining, an ungodly amount is wasted. Had I had this news item then I would have added it to my list of examples.
New Jersey launched a vaccine call center in late January of last year. This was soon after the COVID-19 vaccines came out and appointments were hard to get. It was meant to answer questions about the new vaccine and to get people scheduled for one.
Well, they didn’t do it on their own. They farmed it out. They hired an outside company to handle it. The cost?
Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli recently called that hotline “one of our more successful ventures.”
Here’s how they define success.
The New Jersey Health Department says that hotline took 3.7 million incoming calls. How many actually spoke to a live human? 990,186. This means more than 73% of incoming calls went to automation. Makes you wonder how many people seeking information really got what they needed. If it was anything like how the unemployment benefits phone system at the Department of Labor operated during the pandemic then not very many.
The biggest reason for this hotline was the push to get as many people in New Jersey vaccinated as quickly as possible. In a six-month period from January 2021 through July 2021, the hotline secured appointments for 123,598. That’s it. And if you divide $90,000,000 by that number, this means it costs over $728 per person vaccinated.
Granted, even though appointments made through the hotline tapered off there were still more made and questions were answered, etc. But generally speaking, $728 per person to make a vaccination appointment is a lousy return on investment. It’s hard to believe this couldn’t have been done far more effectively for far less money.
Oh, and son? We haven’t even gotten to that FICA deduction yet.