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News : Vermont Health Connect Call Center Staffing Begins Winding Down
Montpelier, VT, Dec 24,2014 -- The state and its contractor for Vermont Health Connect operations and development are reducing the number of people working at call centers as demand eases during the open enrollment period for health insurance.
Lawrence Miller, chief of health care reform for Gov. Peter Shumlin, said the shedding of contractors hired by Optum has been expected for some time because the workers have been completing necessary tasks. A coordinated reduction is taking place after a surge in workers for open enrollment.
"That’s the nature of temporary employment," he said Tuesday.
Miller said it is expected that one or two of the four call sites will remain open, based upon which site is performing best. The sites that remain open through open enrollment will be closed eventually because enrollments will cease.
"Our primary objective was to make sure that the ‘no change’ renewals were processed and people were crossed over into 2015 plans so there wouldn’t be coverage gaps," Miller said.
But the closure Friday of an Optum facility in Sugarland, Texas, before Christmas "caught everybody off guard," according to one contract worker. Chalace Epley, who began working at the facility in September, said workers were under the impression they would work through the end of the year. Some were even told that work may continue into the new year, she said.
"They laid off the whole Vermont Health Connect site Friday," she said. "They had a team meeting on Thursday and announced that Friday was our last day. We knew the contract was up, supposedly on Dec. 31."
According to Epley, about 65 workers were cut loose Friday from the Sugarland site.
"We were told that we could work overtime Thursday and Friday," she said. "I was the last man standing Friday night."
Epley said workers were disappointed that Optum did not employ them through the holiday. "It wouldn’t have even been a full week’s pay to keep us on until Christmas," she said.
Vermont Health Connect spokesman Sean Sheehan said the number of workers is expected to drop from about 110 to 30 by Dec. 31. A facility in Concord, North Carolina, will remain open in the short term, while another one in North Carolina and one in Florida will close as the Sugarland site did.
"The most highly trained agents that Optum had that were working on Vermont Health Connect were in Concord, and those are the ones that we’ll be retaining," Sheehan said.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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More Editorial From Vermont Health Connect
About Vermont Health Connect:
Vermont Health Connect is the health insurance marketplace, previously known as health insurance exchange, in the U.S. state of Vermont, created in accordance with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The marketplace operates a web site.
Published: Monday, December 29, 2014