The decision by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia to downsize its coverage in a major way in the state in 2018 doesn’t appear for now as if it will ripple down to its Columbus workforce of about 1,500.
“What I’ve been told is there are no immediate plans for changes,” Debbie Diamond, director of public relations at the Georgia Blue Cross headquarters, said Tuesday after inquiring with Anthem’s corporate headquarters. Indianapolis-based Anthem owns Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia.
The insurance company has occupied its 235,000-square-foot office inside Muscogee Technology Park in the Midland area of Columbus for nearly two years, relocating from its longtime office building on Warm Springs Road, which remains empty.
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Blue Cross employs about 1,500 people in Columbus, Diamond said, which is higher than the 1,450 on the payroll during the insurer’s move to its new home in September 2015. It’s also lower than the 1,750 staffers it pledged to have working there by 2017.
“We still will have an active presence in Columbus, because this doesn’t impact any of our group business,” Diamond said of Monday’s announcement that Blue Cross will stop selling individual policies in 2018 via the Affordable Care Act exchange or off the exchange in the open market, with the exception of 85 mostly rural Georgia counties that don’t have any other insurance provider. Muscogee, Chattahoochee and Harris counties aren’t among those 85 counties.
“When you speak of all our staff in the office down there, many of these people are working on large group, small group, federal (business). It’s not just the individual (policies),” she said.
Diamond estimated that less than 5 percent of its total individual members, or policyholders, will be impacted by the cutback next year. Not impacted are those customers who receive Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia coverage through their company-sponsored or Medicare plans.
It was in April of last year that Jeff Fusile, president of Blue Cross in Georgia, spoke of the potential growth in the Columbus operation and workforce. That was as Anthem was attempting to merge with rival health insurance firm Cigna, a deal that ultimately failed after it could not receive federal regulatory approval.
“By the rate we’re going with growth, I think we’ll outpace that,” Fusile said at the time of future hiring in Columbus and the target of 1,750 employees by this year. “We could get to 2,500 if necessary and we could expand space beyond that if we get there.”
The Columbus operation’s primary mission is to process insurance claims and handle other customer service chores for members across Georgia, but also in other states where Anthem’s insurance subsidiaries do business.
A check of the Georgia insurance firm’s career page Tuesday showed listings primarily for customer service positions in Columbus, with postings as well for a claims representative and field sales and service representative.