Friendly Hands From Overseas

Obamacare is already producing new jobs — in India. Jochelle Mendonca of The Economic Times says “Indian outsourcers see business booming as Obamacare kicks in”.


MUMBAI: As US President Barack Obama’s new health insurance plan takes effect this month, Indian outsourcers handling customer care for insurers there are expecting a big boost in business.

These BPOs are betting on confused customers jamming phone lines and cluttering inboxes seeking clarity on what kind of health coverage they are eligible for, what they need to do to sign up and how much it will cost them.

And who better to do that than the men from Mumbai? Administration officials were already turning to foreign help as the deadline loomed closer. According to an article by the New York Times in July, 2013 officials recruited a British company to help them rollout Obamacare.

WASHINGTON — Racing to meet an October deadline, Obama administration officials said Thursday that they had awarded a contract worth as much as $1.2 billion to a British company to help them sift applications for health insurance and tax credits under the new health care law.

The company, Serco, has extensive experience as a government contractor with the Defense Department and intelligence agencies, and it also manages air traffic control towers in 11 states and reviews visa applications for the State Department. But it has little experience with the Department of Health and Human Services or the insurance marketplaces, known as exchanges, where individuals and small businesses are supposed to be able to shop for insurance. …

“This is a huge undertaking,” said Alan Hill, a spokesman for Serco’s American unit, in Reston, Va. “We have some tight deadlines to meet.”

The exchanges are supposed to be in operation in every state by Oct. 1. Under the contract, Mr. Hill said, Serco and its subcontractors will immediately begin hiring 1,500 people. …

Several insurance and health policy experts said they were surprised at the selection of Serco because it did not have experience with the exchanges. But that may have helped the company win the contract. In the last six months, federal health officials expressed concern that companies already working with exchanges could have an unfair competitive advantage because they had access to nonpublic information about how the government was setting up its eligibility and enrollment system.


In the event its efforts did not prove to be entirely enough to overcome and SERCO is now hiring “hundreds more” to process the health insurance applications made through Obamacare.

SERCO was recently in the news in Britain, where it was referred to the Serious Fraud Office for allegedly overcharging on electronic tags. The Telegraph reported, “the Ministry of Justice said it had passed details of an internal audit to investigators, who will now consider whether criminal charges should be brought against the company.”

Despite the fact that SERCO is nominally British, a large part of its business is red-white-and-blue. Sarah Kliff of the Washington Post wrote in July, 2013 that “Ninety percent of its business is with the federal government … 8,000 workers across 45 states … Serco’s experience isn’t in health care. It’s in paper pushing.”

Kliff says the contract with Obamacare is worth $1.2 billion, with another $1.2 billion due after 5 years.

The administration’s efforts leading up to the rollout however, did not completely avert glitches. The Daily Mail reports that problems in the exchanges are still happening:

Less than 1 per cent of Web visitors are signing up for Obamacare on some state health exchange websites

California’s program registered an estimated 0.58 per cent of website visitors in its first day

A Connecticut congressman boasted that his state took 167 applications for Obamacare services on day one, a rate of 0.59 per cent

Obama administration won’t say how many Americans signed up on the central website that covered insurance exchanges for 36 states

Kentucky’s 5.3 per cent application rate seems to be the nation’s highest

Other states wouldn’t provide statistics, or tracked only the creation of new online accounts, not numbers of completed applications


Obamacare works, as the President said, a little bit like the Iphone when it first came out. I wonder who told him that? The tech companies in Mumbai? Or Serco? Little wonder that the Indian tech giants are rubbing their hands in anticipation.

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