H-1B workers in line for Obamacare work

IT requirements of the Affordable Care Act are being met under state contracts that allow, in their silence, the use of temporary visa workers

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Actions in Illinois are being carefully watched by some citizen groups, such as the Edgar County Watchdogs and Open the Books, which had made public the LCAs and the state contract.

Adam Andrzejewski, who heads the Open the Books project, is expecting that visa workers will be used on the Illinois Medicaid systems project. He pointed to the state's high unemployment as one reason why using such workers is wrong.

The Illinois unemployment rate of 9.2% is the second highest in the U.S. Nevada tops the list at 9.5%.

Andrzejewski is critical of the cost of the contract, contending that the state's Democratic governor, Pat Quinn, is "not saving taxpayer money, but offshoring our jobs and tax dollars."

In the District of Columbia, the municipal government says it does not hire workers on temporary visas, but a contractor like Infosys can do so -- with restrictions. For any service contract valued at more than $300,000, the District says 51% of the new hires resulting from the contract must be District residents.

What constitutes a District resident? There is no length of residency requirement, and the employer verifies residency -- usually by checking a worker's District-issued identification card, according to a spokeswoman at the District's Office of Contracting and Procurement.

Infosys would not comment for this story.

In 2013, Infosys has filed more than 140 LCAs for District projects, according to LCA data gathered by MyVisaJobs.com.

Computerworld looked at a random sample and, except in a few instances, District government addresses were listed. The jobs included technology analysts to be paid $63,631 per year, project managers with pay of $107,738, and technology architects slated to earn $130,147.

Computerworld received a copy of the D.C. Infosys contract through a Freedom of Information Act request. The contract provides no added insight into the workforce, other than a list of local IT partners that was required under the District's local partner contracting policy.

Jimit Arora, a vice president at Everest Group, a consulting and research firm, says it's "still early days" in the effort of offshore companies to win government contracts. The trend toward offshoring in public-sector work has been driven by changes in the market.

Offshore companies "are realizing that the traditional cash cows of financial services, insurance, manufacturing and energy seem to be tapering," said Arora. Their interest in looking at new sectors, he added, "is a natural evolution of the firms wanting to grow as the traditional sources of growth start to slow down."

Paul Singer, principal at outsourcing consultancy Pace Harmon, said healthcare generally is becoming a very important market for outsourcers. For example, he said, 25% of Cognizant's revenues are from healthcare.

Singer said cost savings are a factor in the move to offshoring, but customers of the IT services companies are also "looking to providers to offer innovation, access to hard-to-find skills, and new technologies, which eliminates the need for some tasks completely, and therefore provides an even more meaningful cost impact."

Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov, or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His email address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

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