The political maneuvering over locating a California Obamacare enrollment Call Center in Contra Costa County has completely missed the point. What played out clearly illustrates that advocacy and assistance for healthcare consumers under the Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA) is not even on the agenda. Rather, it has become clear that implementation of the ACA in California has already devolved into a three ring circus of rent seeking, entrenched, political, bureaucratic, and union interests squabbling for their piece of the action.
In a late night meeting Friday, Contra Costa County Supervisors (BOS) voted to place the Health Exchange Call Center and its 205 (new) jobs in Concord. The hurried vote, originally scheduled for Tuesday, March 20, was most likely a move to present the State of California with a fait accompli, before embarassed State and Federal bureaucrats could cancel the contract with the County given the public spectacle that took place. This, after ten days of on-again off-again negotiations featuring the fitful graspings of State Senator DeSaulnier, the County Supervisors, and the cities of Concord and Richmond; not to mention outlandish demands from a (typically) ham-fisted AFSCME.
Not once during the open warfare over who would get what did the public hear any discussion concerning any serious plans to mitigate how badly the call center will be totally overwhelmed come January 1, 2014. You can take it to the bank that Call Center employees and its systems will be completely overrun by Charlie on opening day. Citizens, required to seek eligibility and then search for a plan they can afford, will be on the short end of the customer service stick without any recourse.
Not once did we hear about how the Call Center will implement best practices as recommended by Enroll America, a national clearing house for methods to make Obamacare enrollment easy for consumers.
Not once did we hear about ensuring quality service for 16 languages, the frail elderly, or literacy challenged callers; not to mention dropped calls, plus any combination of desperate, misinformed, and testy callers. The job description is far beyond the capacity of what will prove to be an inexperienced, ill-trained, and unprepared workforce and management guided by a sense of entitlement, who-cares job security, and “Sorry, I’m on my break,” union work rules.
What we witnessed instead was acceptance, rejection, and acceptance again for a contract by the BOS; during which both Concord and Richmond openly strutted their beauty, with the latter last seen searching high and low for a co-signor. And not only did AFSCME demand deal-killing increased wages beyond what the State was willing to pay for certain positions, it insisted that the 205 jobs be new hires, not just existing employees moved from existing County jobs; all the better to cushion union coffers thanks to the ACA. Then came the unproperly noticed, Brown-Act avoiding late night deal by the BOS, that, according to sources, could be reneged upon by the State of California at any time.
If the debate over the contract teaches us anything, the common Concord Call Center experience will be the DMV on steroids; paid by the State, operated by unionized county employees, with payment for underfunded pensions forced upon Contra Costa taxpayers.
Signing up for Obamacare will be sheer hell for millions of Americans as long as local politicians and unions look out for themselves instead of creating quality service for healthcare consumers.