Contract Renewed For Serco Processing Center Hit By Whistleblower Allegations

The $98 million contract extends operations of the facility where employees reported they sometimes slept or played board games for lack of work. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports that sign-ups may not be the only way to gauge the health law's success, a private exchange for restaurant workers debuts in D.C., and Health Net faces criticism in Arizona for its narrow network.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Serco Contract To Process Obamacare Applications Renewed For A Year
The federal government has renewed for another year the contract of Serco Inc., whose Affordable Care Act application processing facility in Wentzville was hit by whistleblower allegations that workers there had little to do. The new taxpayer-paid contract, which began July 1, will be worth about $98 million. The first-year contract was worth about $114 million, according to figures supplied Thursday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which oversees the contract. Serco and CMS had anticipated as many as 6 million paper applications to come in under the new health care law, commonly called Obamacare, but only about 300,000 came in, CMS acknowledged last month. Whistleblowers said employees sometimes slept or played board games for lack of work, and members of Missouri’s congressional delegation demanded inquiries. CMS Director Marilyn Tavenner responded in letters to the delegation last month, but did not address the whistleblower allegations (Raasch, 7/3).

The Wall Street Journal: Sign-Ups Not the Only Way To Gauge Health Law's Success
In April, after enrollment for Obamacare had closed, the president announced that 8 million people had signed up ... While sign-ups exceeded expectations, other measures are more important and, at this point, uncertain. For example, relatively few young people signed up. Significantly more females, who are pricier to insure, enrolled than males. And little is known about the overall health of the sign-up group, although early studies suggest they are older and sicker than other insured Americans. To keep up with enrollment projections, twice as many people must sign up next year (McGinty, 7/4).

The Washington Post: Restaurant-Specific Insurance Exchange Debuts In D.C. 
As a former Matchbox employee married to a Graffiato bartender, Alisia Kleinmann knows a thing or two about the lack of health insurance in the restaurant industry. “My husband is 35 years old. We have two kids. He never had insurance,” said Kleinmann, president of the hospitality trade organization Industree. “I just kept thinking, something has to change. Something has to get better.” Last week Kleinmann, 33, rolled out Industree Exchange, a private insurance exchange geared at Washington-area restaurants and bars with more than 100 employees (Bhattarai, 7/6).

The Arizona Republic: Health Net Vows To Improve Health-Care Coverage, Service
Many Arizonans who chose the lowest-cost insurance plans available under the ­Affordable Care Act soon learned that securing the health care they signed up for wasn't as easy as flashing an insurance card at the nearest doctor's office or hospital. Health Net sold the least-expensive plans in Arizona and dominated the market, signing up about 80,000 residents, or two out of every three who enrolled for coverage under the federal health-care law. While its low monthly premiums appealed to consumers, Health Net's narrow choice of doctors and at-times long phone waits for customer service led to far more complaints than were filed against any other insurer (Alltucker, 7/6).

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. The full summary of the day's news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.