Health-related contracts create more than 300 jobs at 2 firms

Weak employment numbers like those released on Friday almost make me glad the U.S. health insurance system is as complex as all get-out.

At least it’s creating some jobs at two area companies.

Blue Bell-based Corporate Call Center Inc. said on Tuesday it was adding more than 250 positions after gaining a new health-benefits client. And Trevose-based International SOS Assistance Inc. has added about 50 jobs in Bucks County, a direct result of winning a $269.1 million military health-care contract.

Corporate Call Center does indeed operate call centers, but it is focused on insurers and has specialized in Medicare since prescription drug benefits were added in 2005, said its president, Frank Pettinato.

Pettinato would not disclose the name of the client, common practice for those in the “business process outsourcing” business.

What’s uncommon for that business is where Corporate Call Center operates its centers - not in the Philippines or India, but at two locations in Blue Bell.

The reason for that is as simple as it is expensive: The company is required to have call-center agents who have insurance licenses in order to be involved in the sales and support of Medicare insurance plans, Pettinato said.

That would tend to limit the pool of qualified applicants, but the high concentration of insurers in the Philadelphia area shows Corporate Call Center is swimming in the right pool.

The company staffs up by using insurance agents looking to pick up some extra income over three months’ time, Pettinato said.

He estimated that it has put about 1,000 people through pre-licensing training, and that cost can be $5,000 to $6,000 per person. “Our biggest challenge is getting enough state licensing exam times,” he said.

Jobs tied to Medicare insurers are seasonal. Open enrollment for Medicare plans runs from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, with a disenrollment period lasting from Jan. 1 through Feb. 15.

This fall, Corporate Call Center will have more than 800 agents, making and taking calls, up 40 percent from the previous year.

The other workforce expansion occurred at International SOS, after it was selected as the contractor of the Department of Defense’s Tricare overseas health-care plan. As of Sept. 1, it provides health services to about 500,000 beneficiaries around the world.

After adding 50 people to help handle the Tricare contract, International SOS now employs 225 in its Trevose headquarters.