H-1B Workers in Line for Obamacare Work
Some state governments are willing to hire offshore outsourcing firms to work on IT projects under controversial contracts that don't bar use of temporary foreign labor, or workers on H-1B visas.
Wed, September 25, 2013
Computerworld — Some state governments are willing to hire offshore outsourcing firms to work on IT projects under controversial contracts that don't bar use of temporary foreign labor, or workers on H-1B visas.
Two multimillion dollar government health care IT projects, one in Illinois and the other in the District of Columbia, illustrate what's going on.
In Illinois, Cognizant was awarded a $74.1 million contract in June to upgrade the state's Medicaid systems to meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare.
In January,Washington D.C. awarded Infosys a $49.5 million contract to develop a health benefit exchange and replace its Medicaid and eligibility systems.
In Washington, H-1B visa holders may already be working on systems. In Illinois, state officials say that no H-1B workers are working on its project - for now.
Illinois said that Cognizant has assigned 13 workers, all U.S. citizens or permanent U.S. residents with Medicaid experience and expertise, to work on the project. Seven of the staff members are former state of Illinois employees with extensive knowledge of the state's Medicaid system, according to spokeswoman Kelly Jakubek, communication manager for Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services
Cognizant has submitted paperwork to bring on 60 visa workers or more, a proposal that the state isn't aware of, Jakubek said.
Computerworld emailed to Illinois officials copies of the paperwork filed by Cognizant with the U.S. Dept. of Labor to hire 60 senior system analysts at a wage rate of $76,814. This paperwork, Labor Condition Applications (LCAs), are part of the H-1B approval process and are used in wage determinations. As a general rule, though, the filing of an LCA doesn't mean that a visa worker in on the way.
The state controls the hiring process for the project, said Jakubek, though she could not say whether it will require the contractor to exclude temporary visa workers from the effort.
Asked about the Labor Dept. wage applications, Cognizant said it would take on visa workers if needed.
"Due to the shortage of qualified talent in many parts of the U.S., we routinely file LCAs when we anticipate a large contract to ramp up," Cognizant said in a statement. "Our first course of action is always to seek out qualified U.S. workers to fill these positions. We file LCAs as a fallback measure in the event that we are not able to find qualified U.S. workers."
Ron Hira, a public policy professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology and a researcher of tech immigration issues, said that Cognizant "is able to piggyback off of the false claims of a dire shortage of US IT workers," he said. "Microsoft and others are providing cover to firms like Cognizant by making broad-based claims of IT shortages," he said.