- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 14, 2014

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - The administration of Gov. Peter Shumlin came under fire Tuesday for outsourcing jobs connected with the Vermont Health Connect insurance exchange - on the same day that officials said another out-of-state contractor was adding 60 new jobs.

Vermont Republican Chairman David Sunderland issued a statement criticizing the state’s hiring of a Nebraska-based company to handle billing and collections for Vermont Health Connect.

“The VTGOP has nothing against the Corn Husker state, but given the dismal job creation we’ve seen under Governor Shumlin’s leadership … the very least Governor Shumlin could do is guarantee to Vermonters that those processing jobs will be done by a business here in Vermont,” he said.

The criticism came the same day that officials announced that a second out-of-state contractor, Maximus Inc., would be bringing in 60 call center staff to address long waits faced by callers to the Vermont Health Connect call center. Mark Larson, commissioner of the Department of Vermont Health Access, said that work would be done at Maximus offices in the Chicago area. Most of the previously existing call center jobs have been in Burlington, and more are likely to be added there as well, Larson said.

“This is a contract that has been in place for our call center for quite some time, and we have been hiring Vermonters for our primary call center,” Larson said. “We expect to continue to see increasing staff there, but we needed to take immediate steps to bring the call wait time down.”

“People have been waiting too long in the call center to get their questions answered,” Larson added. He said he could not say what average wait times had been.

He disputed Sunderland’s use of the term outsourcing. “We have not moved any Vermont jobs out of state,” Larson said. He added that he believed Maximus was reallocating some personnel internally. The goal is to meet a call center response time standard laid out in the company’s contract with Vermont. The new staff devoted to the task won’t increase the state’s costs, he said.

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