By Matt Murphy and Andy Metzger
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE — Continuing its critical examination of Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker’s tenure as head of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, the campaign of Democrat Martha Coakley knocked Baker’s jobs record Tuesday, highlighting the outsourcing of jobs to India while Baker led the insurer.
Drawing attention to the company’s “Outsourcing Excellence Award” in 2008, the Coakley campaign began circulating an Outsourcing Center article about the performance of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, which Baker turned around from a floundering company in state receivership.
“We’ve already learned that while Charlie Baker was turning around Harvard Pilgrim, he did it while raising premiums, cutting coverage for seniors and tripling his own salary to $1.7 million,” Coakley campaign manager Tim Foley said in a statement. “Now we learn that even after the turnaround was complete, he continued to send jobs overseas that could have been filled by hard-working men and women of Massachusetts.”
The pointed criticism of Baker’s record at Harvard Pilgrim comes after Coakley already made an issue during a recent debate of Baker’s seven-figure salary at the health insurer while premiums for consumers rose. Former Gov. Mitt Romney, who dealt with questions while running for president about his own record of outsourcing jobs, is also set to headline a Boston fundraiser this week for the Republican nominee.
Baker, who answered similar charges during his 2010 campaign for governor, has touted his efforts to transform Harvard Pilgrim from a company on the brink of financial ruin to one of the top rated health insurers in the country.
Though Baker has acknowledged having to make difficult decisions, such as pulling HPHC out of the Rhode Island market, he insists he’s proud of the work he and his team did, which he says protected coverage and saved thousands of jobs in Massachusetts.
“Another day, another misleading political attack from a candidate with no positive solutions for the future. The truth is that while the Attorney General has spent most of her career running for political office, Charlie Baker helped create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the Weld and Cellucci administrations, and saved thousands of jobs at Harvard Pilgrim, which was named the ‘best place to work in Massachusetts,’ and a national leader for member satisfaction,” Baker spokesman Tim Buckley said.
Coakley’s campaign contends that Harvard Pilgrim’s outsourcing of 600 jobs, including some to India, conflicts with Baker’s message about job creation in Massachusetts.
Asked whether Coakley has similar concerns with the Health Connector, controlled by Democratic appointees, and the Patrick administration agreeing to a contract with IT vendor Optum that includes a 250 person call-center in Phoenix, a spokeswoman for Coakley said the attorney general also disagrees with that decision. She had not previsouly said anything about the Phoenix call-center, first outlined by officials last week.
While Baker served as the company’s CEO, Harvard Pilgrim made the decision to contract with Perot Systems, owned by Texas billionaire Ross Perot, for IT and business process services. While the majority of employees remained in Massachusetts working for Harvard Pilgrim under the management of Perot, about 200 jobs were eventually outsourced to India in an effort to shave administrative costs.
Harvard Pilgrim Deputy Chief Information Officer Bob Trombly is quoted in the article disseminated by the Coakley campaign as saying, “The staff in India is very well trained, doing great work, and eager to take on more. I think that’s a sobering lesson to everyone about the global marketplace.”
The Outsourcing Center, located in Dallas, Texas, says it is a business resource that works in conjunction with consultants, publishes white papers and holds the annual awards.
A photo accompanying the article about the award shows Baker in a tuxedo holding the glass award. The year after accepting the Outsourcing Excellence Award Baker launched his first run for governor.
A super PAC funded by the Democratic Governors Association ran an ad earlier in the campaign cycle depicting men dressed in tuxedoes clinking champagne glasses and contending that Baker personally profited off charging consumers higher premiums.
Baker has defended his salary as consistent with market trends and not something he spent much time negotiating with the board.