MODESTO -- It looked as if Stanislaus County was back in the running this week for a health exchange call center and 200-plus jobs, but it appears the jobs are going to a Bay Area county.
Contra Costa County officials announced Wednesday they reached a crucial labor agreement needed to staff the center, the Contra Costa Times reported. That came about 24 hours after county leaders there seemed to throw in the towel, voting not to approve a state contract to run the center because of union demands for higher wages.
In December, Stanislaus made a bid for the center in hope of landing more than 200 jobs, but the state tentatively awarded the center to Contra Costa. The county-run center will be one of three in the state to help uninsured Californians buy affordable insurance through the federal health care law.
Stanislaus officials have been watching as the proposed Bay Area center turned into a fiasco, with unions making demands for higher wages and Concord and Richmond aggressively pitching their sites for the center.
State Sen. Mark DeSaul-nier of Concord reportedly acted as a mediator to help the county reach a deal with a union representing supervisorial employees. Next week, Contra Costa's Board of Supervisors will consider approving a site for the call service.
Kathy Harwell, director of Stanislaus County's Community Services Agency, said Wednesday her department had prepared to renew its offer to operate the call center. She said the state had not contacted Stanislaus County when it looked as if Contra Costa would scrap a proposed agreement with Covered California, the state agency creating the health exchange.
Two possible locations for the center had been identified in Stanislaus County.
Stanislaus officials said they did not get feedback from the state on why their proposal lost.
Monica Nino, county chief executive officer, said the Stanislaus bid had a higher percentage of full-time jobs than was in Contra Costa's proposal. The county proposal estimated 250 to 300 employees were needed for the operation. The Contra Costa plan was for 214 jobs.
In addition, Stanislaus has less experience running call centers for the public; its phone center for county residents who receive public assistance has operated for less than a year.
County Supervisor Bill O'Brien said Wednesday the state should talk with this county if plans for the Bay Area center fall through.
Covered California has plans for a large state-run call center in the Sacramento area, where workers wearing headsets and sitting at computer terminals will help uninsured adults buy subsidized coverage for as little as $90 a month, depending on income. A second state-run center also is planned.
The Affordable Care Act will require most Americans to have health insurance starting in 2014.
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2321.