News : Concord 'Obamacare' Call Center to Close at End of Year
Martinez, CA, USA, Aug 16, 2016 -- Contra Costa County's call center to help people enroll in Affordable Care Act "Obamacare" health care coverage will close at the end of November -- six months sooner than anticipated because of a 70 percent cut in state funding.
The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved speeding up a shutdown plan for the Concord call center, originally scheduled for June 30, 2017, as called for earlier by the California Health Benefit Exchange, known as Covered California.
Kathy Gallagher, the county's Employment and Human Services Department director, said her office will work to help the call center's 121 workers -- all county employees, and almost all represented by unions -- find other jobs with the county or perhaps at one of two other such call centers in the state operated by Covered California.
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"Our goal is to avoid layoffs," said Gallagher, adding that the newly accelerated shutdown schedule may make finding those jobs harder.
The closure of the office should be formally completed by Dec. 31.
On May 5, Covered California notified the county that the call center contract would not be renewed beyond June 30, 2017. The county's Employment and Human Services Department began a "ramp-down" plan.
Then, in late July, the state announced it was cutting funding for the Contra Costa contract by more than $10 million -- a 72 percent reduction from the original $14.4 million 2016-2017 budget. The remaining $4 million is enough to continue call center operation only through Nov. 30, county officials say.
The county has not used any of its own money to operate the center; it is reimbursed by the state's Covered California program, which in turn is reimbursed by federal funds. And County Supervisor Candace Andersen reiterated Tuesday that such spending won't start now, either.
As the health benefit exchange moves toward self-sustainability and away from federal funding, the agency's budget "has been updated to reflect this," Lopez said, accounting for the budget trim. "This has always been planned."
Contra Costa County won the contract in 2013 to operate the Concord center. Things didn't go smoothly originally, with hiccups at the start with the state's computer system, training deficiencies and miscommunication about many of the call center jobs being part time and without benefits. Supervisors, who offered little comment Tuesday before their vote, were disappointed at that time that more of the jobs weren't full time.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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About Contra Costa County:
Contra Costa County is a primarily suburban county in the San Francisco Bay Area of the U.S. state of California. It occupies the northern portion of the East Bay region. As of the 2010 census, it had a population of 1,049,025.
Published: Monday, August 22, 2016
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