News : Concord ‘Obamacare’ Call Center Closing
Martinez, CA, USA, Aug 28, 2016 -- After the end of this year, Martinez residents and others living in Contra Costa County no longer will call a Concord center to get answers to questions about Covered California and the Affordable Health Care Act options.
Two other call centers, operated by Covered California, will remain open, Federal Gover, Contra Costa County District 5 Supervisor said.
Contra Costa County officials and representatives of Covered California were in negotiations for more than six months before the two entities agreed to open the Concord center. The county has operated the center, while the other two use state employees.
Covered California is the state-administered exchange that lets individuals and small businesses purchase health insurance at federally-subsidized rates under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, often nicknamed "Obamacare."
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When the establishment of the call center was announced March 21, 2013, Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee said he expected more than 5.3 million Californians would be eligible for coverage under the state program, and the Concord center would provide an important service.
"We need to have skilled customer care representatives helping individuals and small employers sort through the ways they can benefit from the federal support and understand the new rules," he said at the time. "Contra Costa County is a great partner to join us in this historic mission because of their long history of providing first-class service through a call center environment."
Covered California Board Chairperson Diana Dooley also said the well-placed center would be meeting critical needs as the state rolled out its version of an Affordable Health Care exchange.
While Lee said he expected the call center would be "state of the art," the site got off to a rough start, however. Some staff members said they left full time employment with benefits only to discover their new assignments were part time jobs with no benefits.
The center, nicknamed "7Cs" and more formally called the Contra Costa County Covered California Call Center, not only began answering questions from callers, it kept records of the calls so Covered California could track the demographics of those who were enrolling locally. Those numbers have been used for comparison with state-level statistics
The Board of Supervisors is expecting to see a layoff resolution at its Sept. 13 meeting. The county Tactical Employment Team Program would be used to help the call center’s employees cope with those layoffs.
Gallagher’s report listed the lost jobs are a combined 179 customer service agents, a dozen customer service supervisors, three clerks, two development specialists, a clerical supervisor, a quality assurance monitor, a secretary and a personnel services assistant.
"A lot of people fear their jobs will be lost," Glover said. "We’ll be trying to place these people."
He said many are expected to be hired in other positions throughout Contra Costa County. "Not all people will be displaced."
However, the end of the year marks the end of the Contra Costa County call center. "We were the only county doing this operation," Glover said.
He concurred with those who said the call center employees were doing their jobs well. "I talked to a customer today," he said last week. That person and others have said they were happy to have a local number to learn about services, how they could reduce insurance costs "or get health care at all," he said.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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PROGRAM ANALYST FOR STATE AGENCY OFFERING AFFORDABLE HEALTHCARE IN 2014.
Published: Wednesday, August 31, 2016
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