AP Treats Obamacare Contractor's Employees in Three States Doing Almost No Work As a Local Story

A search at 11:00 p.m. ET tonight at the Associated Press's national web site on "Serco," the company with a five-year, $1.25 billion contract to process paper Obamacare enrollment applications, returned no results. That's absolutely pathetic, given that St. Louis TV station KMOV, based on multiple accounts from several current and former employees and contractors, has reported that the company has well over 1,000 people doing almost nothing all day simply because there are very few paper applications to process. KMOV, which carried five consecutive reports this week (here, here, here, here, and here), even noted in its later segments that its work had drawn national attention.

What's worse than AP not covering the story nationally? How about the wire service treating it as a local and regional story, even though Serco and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are wasting roughly $20 million per month of U.S. taxpayers' money, and even though calls for investigation have come from U.S. senators in at least two states? It would have been just as absurd if AP had treated bankrupt Solyndra, which failed to repay an Energy Department loan of over $500 million several years ago, as a California-only story because that's where its plant was. Excerpts from the AP's story, including a "This story is boring, so don't read it" headline, follow the jump (bolds are mine):


Contractor for Obama health reform law scrutinized

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Several U.S. lawmakers are demanding answers after some Missouri media outlets reported that employees at a center processing applications for health insurance under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul were paid to do nothing.

U.S. Sens. Roy Blunt of Missouri and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee sent a letter Wednesday to Marilyn Tavenner, administrator for the federal government's Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, in response to a report Monday on KMOV-TV concerning the Serco Inc. office in Wentzville, Missouri.

U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, whose district includes Wentzville, wrote to Tavenner separately and is looking into whether there should be an investigation, spokesman Paul Sloca said. Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, a supporter of Obama's Affordable Care Act, asked for an investigation.

The television station first reported the story, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Thursday quoted former Serco worker Lavonne Takatz as saying workers had so little to do that she played board games. Others slept, she said. It wasn't immediately clear if Takatz was the same employee who spoke with KMOV.

"I feel guilty for working there as long as I did," Takatz, 42, told the newspaper. "It was like I was stealing money from people."

She did not respond to messages seeking comment from The Associated Press.

Serco was awarded up to $1.25 billion to process applications for health insurance through the new health care law. Based in Great Britain, Serco employs 100,000 people worldwide, including 9,000 in the U.S.

... The Wentzville facility has 660 employees and is one of three contracted to process paper applications; the others are in Arkansas and Kentucky.

... The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said in a statement that it is committed to working with Serco and other contractors "to ensure that federal funds are spent appropriately and performance expectations are clear and monitored closely.

AP kept its story's focus so local that it didn't even bother telling readers how many Serco workers are at all three facilities combined. According to the KMOV reports, the number is 1,800 — and the company is allegedly still hiring.

As to the CMS's claimed "close monitoring," one Serco employee told KMOV that supervisors knew that CMS officials were going to pay them a visit. That's an obvious mistake. Legitimate monitoring requires showing up unannounced. Having been alerted, supervisors told employees to “dress professionally and act like we were working ... (and to) pull our chairs into our cubicles and yes look at the screen as if we were reading things with fingers on the keyboard.” As Instapundit's Glenn Reynolds often writes: "It’s Potemkin Villages all the way down."

It would make more "sense" for AP to totally ignore the story than it does to insult our intelligence by essentially claiming that only people in places where Serco has these facilities should care about massive waste exposed in Dear Leader's "signature achievement."

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.