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Stanislaus County weighs sending proposal for health care call center [The Modesto Bee]

Dec. 03-- STANISLAUS COUNTY-- Stanislaus County supervisors on Tuesday could authorize sending a proposal to the state for the county to operate a call center, which would help people obtain health insurance under the Affordable Care Act starting in 2014.. If the county board gives the green light, Stanislaus apparently would compete for the center with two other...

By Ken Carlson, The Modesto Bee
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Dec. 03--STANISLAUS COUNTY -- Stanislaus County supervisors on Tuesday could authorize sending a proposal to the state for the county to operate a call center, which would help people obtain health insurance under the Affordable Care Act starting in 2014.

County staff has increased its employment estimate for the potential call center to 250 to 300 jobs, up from an initial estimate of 140 positions. About 70 percent would be full-time jobs and the remainder part-time.

If the county board gives the green light, Stanislaus apparently would compete for the center with two other counties that have expressed interest, Contra Costa and Sacramento. The county-run center would be one of three used by the California Health Benefit Exchange, a public entity created to help millions of residents improve their access to health care under the 2010 federal law signed by President Barack Obama.

"They are looking at establishing the centers throughout the state," said Evelyn Genn, a manager in the county's Community Services Agency. "We think they are looking at one in the northern area and one in the southern area and, we hope, one in the middle of the state. We are pretty much in the middle of the state."

The Health Benefit Exchange expects to see proposals from the counties by noon Friday. The exchange would choose one of the counties for the contract in early January and then negotiate the terms of a multiyear agreement.

The state is supposed to cover the startup and operating costs. Supervisors would have to approve the detailed contract.

The center would have qualified staff to determine the eligibility of callers seeking private health insurance or benefits through the Medi-Cal program. Starting in 2014, health reforms will expand eligibility for Medi-Cal to include single adults, couples, children and families whose incomes are at less than 133 percent of the federal poverty level.

Others will be eligible to purchase subsidized private health insurance through the exchange. State leaders decided to use call centers as the primary method for determining eligibility and enrolling people.

According to a staff report, Stanislaus would need 40,350 square feet of building space to house the call center and likely would need to lease a building. The Health Benefit Exchange would purchase and deliver the computer equipment and software needed for the county-run center and provide technical support.

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The call center would operate about 10 hours a day, Monday through Saturday. The county would need to have managers and front-line staff hired and trained by the end of June. The center would begin assisting customers in October 2013.

The Board of Supervisors will meet at 9 a.m. Tuesday in the basement chamber of Tenth Street Place, 1010 10th St., Modesto.

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at kcarlson@modbee.com or (209) 578-2321.

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(c)2012 The Modesto Bee (Modesto, Calif.)

Visit The Modesto Bee (Modesto, Calif.) at www.modbee.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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