Lawrence will be a beneficiary of the federal government's effort to help Americans understand the coverage being made available by the Affordable Care Act.
A yet-to-be-determined number of positions will be added later this year to the Vangent call center in the East Hills Business Park, where operators will assist consumers purchasing insurance in the new online health care exchanges, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has confirmed.
The jobs are a fraction of the 7,000-9,000 positions that will be created this fall nationwide at up to 14 call centers nationwide, some of which, including the one in Lawrence, currently handle Medicare-related queries. Vangent's parent company, General Dynamics Information Technology, was awarded a one-year, $530-million contract to oversee customer service related to the exchanges, renewable for up to nine more years.
The local Vangent call center now has about 650 people on staff, down from 1,500 in 2011, when it was the city's largest private employer. It is in the process of hiring more, however. Candidates can apply on the GDIT website or at a job fair Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Lawrence Workforce Center, 2540 Iowa St.
The announcement is an ironic twist of fate for Kansas, as Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and the GOP-led legislature have opposed the Affordable Care Act, often known as "Obamacare," by opting not to, as the measure calls for, set up their own health care exchange or expand Medicaid (the decision on the latter is still up in the air).
In the online marketplaces, which go into effect Oct. 1, consumers and small businesses will be able to shop qualifying private insurance plans and determine whether they're eligible for federal tax credits, which will be automatically deducted from the cost of the coverage.
The jobs are being created to serve residents of the 34 states whose exchanges will be run entirely or in part by the federal government. The other 16 states will have their own call centers. Starting in October, operators will be available by phone and email 24/7.