During a recent phone conversation with Kevin Hegebarth, who is the VP of marketing at HireIQ, Inc., he brought to my attention a contact center story that would be hard to believe if it wasn’t so well documented and there wasn’t a government agency behind it. The story involves the recent establishment of a contact center in Contra Costa County, California. It is one of three contact centers to be established in the state of California for the purpose of fielding Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, calls beginning October 1st.
In July the county advertised the availability of 152 new, full-time Obamacare contact center agent jobs. They received 7,457 applications. 1,947 of the applicants passed the civil service exam and moved on to the next phase. 600 applicants went through the interview process before the final 152 agents were hired. Some of the successful applicants were people emerging from a long period of unemployment, some were people coming from small home-based businesses that they started to try to weather the recession and many were people who left other full-time positions in the hope of finding greater stability in a county government contact center job.
Once hired, many employees were surprised to discover that the full-time jobs they applied for and were hired to fill were actually part-time jobs. On top of that they were informed that as part-time employees they would not be eligible to receive health benefits in their new Obamacare support jobs. These new part-timers were given the opportunity to contribute to their health care benefits as a part-time employee at a cost of $600 per month. The cost for an individual to enroll in Obamacare through a health insurance exchange is $243 per month. After doing the math all but 42 part-timers left.
Anna Bakalis, a spokeswoman for Service Employees International Union Local 1021 said the situation at the new call center follows a government employment trend of “part-timeization,” where formerly full-time jobs are now part-time so agencies don’t have to offer health benefits. Does anyone else see the irony here?
As it stands now the contact center is trying to come up with a 50-50 split of full-time and part-time positions. In the meantime they are dealing with the fallout that has come from hiring people with no health care benefits whose job it will be to help people get health care benefits.