State's Bill For Obamacare Call Center Significantly Higher Than Estimated

May 14, 2014

Gov. Dannel Malloy, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, and Access Health CT's Kevin Counihan in a file photo.
Credit Jeff Cohen / WNPR
Maximus has had to triple the number of the people taking phone calls.

One part of the Affordable Care Act has become less affordable: call centers. Maximus, the company that runs the phone banks to enroll people in Connecticut, originally said it would charge the state $15 million over roughly three years.

The state now says the cost of that contract could nearly double. 

State officials say they expected about 100,000 people to enroll in the first year of Obamacare. They were wrong. In the end, more than 200,000 people enrolled. That's a good thing if you're an advocate of more health insurance for more people.

It was a challenge for Maximus, the firm paid to run the call center for the state's health insurance exchange, because Maximus was woefully understaffed.

"We tried to give them projections of enrollment and we counted on them to translate that into number of bodies," said Kevin Counihan, the head of Access Health CT. "We were wrong on the enrollment, and they were wrong on bodies."

Counihan said Maximus has had to triple the number of the people taking phone calls. 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.

Pricing details of the original three-year contract with Maximus are hard to come by. The company said they're proprietary, and is fighting their release, but it has said that the contract was first valued at $15 million.

Now, in just the first year of its contract with Maximus, Access Health CT expects to pay about $11.1 million. Next year, it projects a $10.5 million price tag. That's a total of almost $22 million in the first two years. Counihan said the change may have caused his chief financial officer some concern. 

Otherwise, "It's a great problem to have," Counihan said. "I mean, if you look at our mission, which is to get people insured, which is to get people access to health care, which is to reduce the number of uninsured in our state, it's a great problem to have."

Maximus, through its attorney, did not respond to a request for comment.