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Affordable Care Act Contractor Under Scrutiny

Associated Press
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Photo: KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

Photo: KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

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ST. LOUIS (AP) - Three Republican lawmakers in Washington are demanding answers after local media outlets reported that an Affordable Care Act processing center in suburban St. Louis is paying employees to do nothing.

U.S. Sens. Roy Blunt of Missouri and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee sent a letter Wednesday to Marilyn Tavenner, administrator for the government’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, in response to a report Monday on KMOV-TV concerning the Serco Inc. office in Wentzville, Missouri.

U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, whose district includes Wentzville, will write to Tavenner separately, spokesman Paul Sloca said.

“He’s in touch with potential committees that would have oversight and determining what is the best way to proceed in terms of a potential investigation,” Sloca said.

The television station first reported the story, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Thursday quoted former Serco worker Lavonne Takatz as saying workers had so little to do that she played board games. Others slept, she said. It wasn’t immediately clear if Takatz was the same employee who spoke with KMOV.

“I feel guilty for working there as long as I did,” Takatz, 42, told the newspaper. “It was like I was stealing money from people.”

She did not respond to messages seeking comment from The Associated Press.

Serco was awarded up to $1.25 billion to process applications for health insurance through the new health care law. Based in Great Britain, Serco employs 100,000 people worldwide, including 9,000 in the U.S.

The Wentzville facility has 660 employees and is one of three contracted to process paper applications; the others are in Arkansas and Kentucky.

The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said in a statement that it is committed to working with Serco and other contractors “to ensure that federal funds are spent appropriately and performance expectations are clear and monitored closely.

“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,” it said.

A message seeking comment from a spokesman for Serco was not immediately returned.

The senators expressed concern that Serco “may have much less work than was expected” when it was awarded the contract, and that the company may not be successfully completing applications it receives. They asked Tavenner to respond by May 30.

Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, Chairman of Senate Subcommittee on Contracting & Financial Oversight, sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General, calling on the administration to, “evaluate these claims and, if warranted, undertake a thorough investigation.”

(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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