The outsourcing comes at a difficult time for the state's individual health care market, as insurers drop out of some counties and premiums increase.

Share story

Premera Blue Cross said Friday it is outsourcing a portion of its call-center work to a health-care firm in Virginia next year, affecting 40 positions at the Mountlake Terrace-based insurer.

But the company said it is confident the move would not result in any layoffs; any affected employees still with the firm then would be offered similar positions within Premera.

Premera said it will be contracting with Arlington, Virginia-based Evolent Health for customer service for people who purchase their health insurance on the individual market – which is for people who don’t get their health insurance through their employer. The individual market represents a tiny portion of Premera’s business, which totals 2 million people in Washington and Alaska, so the majority of Premera’s call center will remain in-house.

Premera, which has about 3,200 employees, notified its workforce of the change on Thursday and said it will take effect in 2020.

Premera, which says it “offers individual health plans in more counties than any other health-insurance carrier in the state,” portrayed the change as a way to cut administrative costs at a time when many other insurers are dropping out of that market. In some Washington counties, people looking for their own insurance without the help of an employer have only one or two options to choose from, while premiums have been soaring.

“Contracting with Evolent Health allows us to continue to provide more affordable choices for the state’s individual market customers,” spokesman Steve Kipp said in a statement.