Medicare call center in Chester no longer on life support

If you have been allowed to reach your golden years, and the required age to use Medicare to help you secure your health, you may have occasion to call the representative of government providing healthcare service – the phone may ring right here in Chester.

Just west of Interstate-295 stands a nondescript building that contains the call center for 1-800-MEDICARE. Over 1,000 employees work at the Vangent call center, recently acquired by General Dynamics, which has been located here since 2003. But on Monday, last week, these local jobs were in jeopardy.

A proposed policy change in the way the competitive bidding process for the multi-billion dollar contract issued by the Department of Health and Human Service (HHS) would have been restricted to three telecommunications companies. General Dynamics not being one of them.

“I recently sent a letter to HHS Secretary [Kathleen] Sebelius expressing concern over a proposed change in HHS policy from an open, competitive bidding process for the multi-billion dollar 1-800-MEDICARE contract, to a GSA contracting vehicle limited to three telecommunications carriers,” Congressman Randy Forbes (VA-04) said last week.

HHS reconsidered, deciding to allow the contract to be open for bid when the current contract expires in 2013 after pressure from Forbes and other Congressmen.

“The dedicated employees currently working for General Dynamics at the Chesterfield call center never asked for special treatment,” said Forbes. “Instead, they simply asked for the opportunity to compete in an open and fair bidding process for the 1-800-MEDICARE contract that they have currently held for nearly a decade.”

The proposed change in policy would have resulted in the loss of 1,084 jobs for those currently employed in the Chesterfield General Dynamics Information Technology facility.
General Dynamics will have the opportunity to compete for the contract to provide the Medicare Part D customer service call center.

Congressman Forbes said, “At a time when we seem to be surrounded by bad news, it is great to celebrate this news for Virginia’s Fourth District.”

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