Lawmakers await answers on processing center

Saturday, June 7, 2014 | 9:51 p.m. CDT

ST. LOUIS — Two Missouri lawmakers say they're still waiting for answers from the government about reports that employees are being paid to do very little work at a suburban St. Louis processing center for President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.

Media reports in mid-May quoted employees of the Serco Inc. office in Wentzville as saying work was so scarce that they sometimes played board games or slept while on the clock.

Great Britain-based Serco was awarded an up to $1.25 billion contract to process applications for health insurance through the new law. The Wentzville facility, with 660 employees, is one of three that processes paper applications. The others are in Arkansas and Kentucky.

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt and U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, both Republicans, asked the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services to respond to their concerns by May 30. Both expressed frustration that the deadline passed without a response.

"It is completely unacceptable to me that these questions have not been responded to or that my letter has not been acknowledged by anyone at CMS," Luetkemeyer wrote this week in a letter to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner.

During his weekly teleconference with reporters on Thursday, Blunt said he is still seeking answers to concerns that workers at the processing centers "don't appear to be doing anything."

CMS said in a statement on Friday that it will respond to the lawmakers, but it didn't say when. The statement said the agency is committed to working with Serco and other contractors "to ensure that federal funds are spent appropriately ..."

"We closely monitor the work Serco is doing relative to the number of employees they have, and we are confident that the balance is appropriate," the statement said.

Serco said last month that the three centers processed more than 1 million documents and made 1.4 million outbound phone calls to applicants from Oct. 1 through April 30.

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