The U.S contact center services industry is experiencing something of a renaissance. Today the U.S. telephone call center industry includes about 4,200 companies with a combined annual revenue of about $16 billion, and growth can be attributed to a number of factors: improving consumer spending, the “reshoring” of contact center services in response to consumer complaints and rising costs abroad, technologies that make it easier to build more flexible contact center models (home agents, etc.) and more.
Another major factor has been the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, or “Obamacare”), that has seen the federal government and many states setting up large, intensive contact centers to help U.S. citizens enroll in health insurance coverage. In some states, however, demand is causing costs to escalate.
In the State of Connecticut, new reports say the costs to run the contact centers to support the state exchange may be doubling over estimates. Maximus, the contact center services provider contracted with enrolling people in Connecticut, originally said it would charge the state $15 million over roughly three years, according to WNPR news. Now, the state has said those costs may run double, though the cost escalations are being chalked up to higher demand for health insurance plans on the state exchange. The state originally predicted that 100,000 people would sign up for plans through the exchange, and the number has surged to close to 200,000 people enrolled. This has led to understaffing at Maximus’ exchange contact centers.
"We tried to give them projections of enrollment and we counted on them to translate that into a number of bodies," Kevin Counihan, the head of Access Health CT, told WNPR. "We were wrong on the enrollment, and they were wrong on bodies."
Maximus was reported having to triple the number of employees working in insurance exchange contact centers. Because of the pricing structure, the more people that call, and the longer they stay on the phone, the more Counihan's agency has to pay, according to the news article.
Counihan does note, however, that “it’s a great problem to have.” While the state may be having to do some fancy footwork in covering the budget overruns, more employees at the contact centers mean more jobs, and high enrollment figures mean that more residents of Connecticut have access to affordable health insurance.