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The home for VPR's coverage of health and health industry issues affecting the state of Vermont.

Exchange Call Center Boosts Staffing To Meet Demand

The state is in the process of ramping up staffing for the Vermont Health Connect customer service call center in an effort to deal with what Vermont Health Access Commissioner Mark Larson called “unacceptable” wait times.

Larson mentioned the increases in staffing at a press conference Tuesday where officials announced that small businesses who extended their 2013 coverage as part of the state’s contingency plan will now have to enroll directly with insurers.

The call center for Vermont’s exchange is operated through a $17.6 million contract with a company called Maximus, which employs call center staff. The company is adding three new teams to the Vermont Health Connect call center under its existing contract with the state, nearly doubling its staffing.

Testifying before the Senate Finance Committee last week in Montpelier, Larson said call center wait times were too long. Currently, there are 84 customer service representatives at the call center.

“Wait times at our call center have been unacceptable to us,” he said, due to a number of factors. “One is the volume of calls that we get. They have been substantial.”

Larson continued later: “The other unpredictable factor throughout October, November and December is how long would the calls be, because that is a very significant factor in terms of the demand on the call center. It’s one thing to have thousands of two-minute calls, but it’s another thing to have thousands of 60-minute calls, and that has been one of the factors in the wait times is that for many, the call length has been very long.”

The expanded capacity, Larson said Tuesday, will help to reduce wait times at the call center. With the new staff, the call center is expected to have a total of 160 representatives by early February.