While it’s no secret that many state governors are less than enthusiastic about the soon-to-be-law Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, or “Obamacare”), many of them are nonetheless preparing for it. For the states choosing to administer the health care exchanges themselves, this means setting up call centers to help with enrollments. Even for states that are choosing not to administer their own exchanges, instead leaving it up to the federal government, there are preparations to be made.
Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant has made little effort to conceal his distaste for the PPACA, but has granted $1 million to a federal contractor that will open a call center to support the mandates of the legislation. That contractor plans to hire 1,000 Mississippians to work in the new call center, according to the Associated Press.
The money will be administered by the Mississippi Development Authority, which oversee economic development stimulus, and will be awarded to General Dynamics Corporation for the purpose of building a new call center in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Vangent, a call center subsidiary of General Dynamics, is the company that was awarded a $28.2 million contract by the federal government to field questions and help enrollments for citizens in states that choose not to set up their own exchanges but leave it to the federal Health Insurance Marketplace.
The mandatory insurance portion of the PPACA goes into effect in January, 2014, at which time all Americans will be required to carry health insurance or pay fines. Businesses with 50 employees or more must offer their full-time employees (defined as 30 or more hours per week) with health insurance. Thus far, 17 states have chosen to set up their own exchanges, while 33 states (including Mississippi) are leaving it to the federal government.
Bryan’s office is emphasizing that it still doesn’t approve of the PPACA, and that the call center is only providing information to Mississippians about the federal program. It’s not supporting a state-organized health insurance exchange.
"No, the state is most certainly not aiding in the implementation of Obamacare," spokesman Mick Bullock told the AP in an e-mail. "The employees who will hold the new jobs at this facility will answer questions on a range of programs coordinated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Some questions may come from residents in the multiple states in this country that, like Mississippi, have declined to implement the insurance exchanges mandated by Obamacare."