STANISLAUS COUNTY -- A potential call center in Stanislaus County could help people buy affordable health insurance or enroll them in Medi-Cal when major provisions of health reform start in 2014.
If the county is chosen for the California Health Benefit Exchange service center, it could gain up to 140 jobs, officials said.
Last month, the county's Community Services Agency started exploring the partnership with the state and will ask county supervisors Tuesday for permission to develop a proposal.
The center would be one of three sites handling eligibility and enrollment functions for the California exchange in 2014, when the federal law will require people to have health insurance and will extend Medi-Cal eligibility to an additional 1.4 million state residents.
The Health Benefit Exchange is an independent public entity that will be the key player for implementing the law in California. According to a county staff report, two large state-run service centers are planned in Northern and Southern California for assisting the uninsured with obtaining subsidized health coverage, regular insurance and Medi-Cal benefits.
A third center would be operated in partnership with a county. Contra Costa, Sacramento and Stanislaus were the only ones that sent letters of interest in September. The state wants to see full proposals from the counties by Nov. 16.
Kristie Santos, assistant director of the CSA's StanWorks job development division, said the county launched a call center in May for its public aid programs, resulting in shorter lobby lines and more efficient service, so it should be able to show its know-how to the state.
She said the lower cost of housing here could be another reason for putting the center in Stanislaus County.
It's estimated that 60 to 140 employees would work at the center, which could receive calls from all over California. The number of jobs would be based on call volume, Santos said. She said the family service specialists and others who work at the center would be county employees.
County staff will research whether it has 25,000 square feet of office space for the service center or whether it would need to lease a site. The California exchange is expected to cover start-up costs and reimburse the selected county for ongoing operating expenses.
The exchange needs to move quickly to set up the service centers, although the outcome of the presidential election could relieve the pressure on the agency. If he is elected, Mitt Romney has vowed to repeal President Obama's 2010 health care law.
According to a timeline, the state would hold contract negotiations with the selected county in mid-December. The county would need to recruit staff for the center by March and train them by June. The center likely would begin operating in October 2013.
The Board of Supervisors will meet at 9 a.m. Tuesday in the basement chamber of Tenth Street Place, 1010 10th St., Modesto.
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2321.
STANISLAUS COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS WATCH
The Board of Supervisors will consider the following items Tuesday:
A report on the county's process for the purchase, maintenance and replacement of vehicles
A resolution commending Community Services Agency Director Christine Applegate for her five years of service. Applegate is to retire this week.
A presentation on Children and Families Commission activities in 2011-12
Appointment of Louise Pooley Sanders and James Teter to the Oak Valley Hospital District board, and Fred Beltran to the Del Puerto Health Care District board
Approval to amend the Stanislaus County Drug Enforcement Agency Joint Powers Agreement with Modesto, Oakdale, Ceres, Patterson, Turlock, Riverbank, Waterford, Hughson and Newman
In closed session, discuss the recruitment or appointment of a Community Services Agency director and agricultural commissioner