NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) — U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-TN, is among those calling for a review after employees paid by taxpayers say they do next to nothing day after day.
The employees work for a company that secured a $1 billion contract to process applications for the Affordable Care Act also known as Obamacare.
Everyone has heard about the bumpy launch of healthcare.gov. The employees under scrutiny were hired by the government to process paper applications. But now that the website is working, some of these folks are saying they basically have nothing to do.
Still, they are pulling in regular paychecks.
Some of them work at an office called Serco in London, KY, just a few hours from Nashville.
“You arrive at 6:30 in the morning. You badge in. You go straight to your cubicle. You wait, and wait and you wait. Nothing comes through,” said former Serco employee LaVonne Takatz.
Former employees of another Serco facility in Missouri told our sister station KMOV-TV they collected up to $17 an hour to do nothing. They said sometimes they’d play games or sleep to pass the time.
“Our supervisor, I can’t speak for the others, but ours said if we process one or two of these applications a month, then we’ve done our job. So, that’s a lot of money to be spent on that little bit of nothing,” said former Serco employee Paula Bujewski, who worked at the Missouri facility.
Serco has offices all over the country. But only three of its offices are processing applications for the Affordable Care Act – the ones in Kentucky and Missouri plus another in Arkansas.
Serco said in a statement that workers in those three offices processed more than 1 million documents and made 1.4 million phone calls to applicants between October and the end of April.
“It’s the easiest job I’ve had in 30 years, in my life,” one Serco worker said on hidden camera.
When another employee was asked if it is a good place to work, they said “it’s good pay.”
And one anonymous London, KY, employee told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “I walk out every day feeling as if I have contributed nothing.”
Some employees said they left their jobs for lower pay because they couldn’t stand having so little to do. Serco’s lucrative contract with the government is worth up to $1.2 billion.
One employee said supervisors prepared them for a visit from the federal officials who oversee the contract.
“They would tell us to come in, dress professionally and act like we were working,” said Bujewski.
Now lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, including Alexander, are pressing for answers about whether Serco is spending tax money appropriately.
A Serco spokesman said that “as in any business or major program, there are peaks and valleys as the various tasks stop and start.”
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid issued a statement, saying it is committed to making sure federal funds are spent appropriately and that the number of Serco staff is reviewed on a regular basis.