SARASOTA -- About half of Health Management Associates' employees who work at the Sarasota office are from Manatee County, and the company wouldn't mind hiring a few more.
The health care management and hospital company, 101 Paramount Drive, is hosting a hiring fair Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., as part of its expansion at its billing and scheduling office. The Florida Regional Service Center serves the entire state. The company has more than 100 positions to fill and employees will be hired in phases.
"There's a lot more talent to come from that area," said Robbie Ratcliff, assistant vice president of revenue cycle for Health Management Associates, speaking of Manatee County.
HMA occupies parts of three floors, totaling about 50,000 square feet, at the former home of Arthur Anderson in the office park off of Fruitville Road. Much of it is currently vacant as the company readies for employees to fill the cubicles and offices over the next year. The hiring fair and expansion comes as good news for both Manatee County, which has a 7.5 percent unemployment rate, and Sarasota County with a 6.8 percent unemployment rate.
HMA's Sarasota office serves 18 hospitals from Key West to Milton, including Venice Regional Medical Center and Bayfront Health St. Petersburg. The expansion will help move insurance verification and centralized scheduling for tests at all Florida hospitals to Sarasota.
"We already have 20-plus positions open before we even begin that expansion," Ratcliff said.
HMA moved to Sarasota on July 23, 2012, and has already doubled its staff since that move, Ratcliff said. It has also more than doubled
its space. The company is receiving up to $400,000 in performance-based incentives from Sarasota County Government if it adds 217 full-time employees with annual wages exceeding the county average. (The Manatee County residents hired don't count toward that number, he said). The company should have more than 350 people in its Sarasota office by the end of next year.
"At this point, the reason we chose to do the job fair and reach out to everyone is we found all the skilled talent we could find through Indeed.com and Monster," he said. More than 150 people attended a previous job fair advertised in area newspapers that weren't advertised online, he added.
HMA is phasing in the billing and scheduling operations for each hospital, which means hiring will also come in phases, but the company wanted to fill the existing 20 positions before it starts to phase in the next 100 new jobs, he said. Every two weeks, more employees are brought in for orientation until the expansion is complete, he added.
It's OK if job candidates don't have experience with medical billing, although it does help.
"You don't really have to have a lot of training for them because we're going to provide the training," Ratcliff said, but it would be a big plus if folks are familiar with the alphabet soup of medical abbreviations and paper work.
That orientation and on-the-job training is provided through CareerEdge, which helped develop a curriculum for creating a service culture in health care. As part of helping keep HMA here, CareerEdge offered the company $100,000 in employee training assistance.
One of the open positions is in the pre-arrival unit, which calls patients to make sure they're ready for their appointments or to double check the insurance company didn't change requirements for pre-certification and to inform the patients, he said.
A position like benefit verification is critical to helping patients make sure their coverage is current, be aware whether their benefit plans have changed because of employment or other circumstances, he said, and help avoid unexpected out-of-pocket expenses.
The ideal candidates will have to be ready to adapt to changing regulations and policies in the insurance industry and multitask, Ratcliff said.
"Health care revenue cycle is constant change," he said. "Every month we could get another insurance company that says that 'we decided that yes that CT did not require pre-cert last month, but this month, it does require pre-cert.'"
That's going to require someone to be aggressive with insurance companies for payment while providing good customer service, he added.
Another post in the regional service center involves billing insurance and making collection calls to insurance companies. The employee also takes inbound customer service calls, he said.
One leadership position, director of support to handle the appeals, support and other areas, is available, Ratcliff said.
Job candidates should have a minimum of a high school diploma and be prepared to choose the position they want -- applicants can't select all jobs. The pay starts at $13 an hour and pay is commiserate with experience. Only candidates with resumes will be interviewed, he said.
The company also offers a full benefit package paying 80 percent of the health premiums for employees, with one particular generous benefit for working for a healthcare company.
"If you are seen in a HMA hospital you basically only owe a $125 co-pay for an ER visit. The rest of it is waived," Ratcliff said. That means, scans, tests, surgery -- everything is covered.
That benefit was a huge relief to Lisa Carter, director of human resources, and her family.
"My husband got open-heart surgery in Venice less than a year ago, and he owes nothing," Carter said.
HMA also offers flexible start times from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., to allow parents to tend to daycare obligations, Carter added.
It's unknown if any benefits will change next year when Community Health Systems finishes its acquisition of HMA, Ratcliff said. The deal should close in the first quarter of 2014. Ratcliff, who previously worked for CHS, said the transition should be seamless for employees.
"We already met with CHS executives here on site. They're very impressed with our operations," he said. The organizational chart and positions for most employees should stay the same, and a change of policies and vendors would be the more noticeable changes. But Ratcliff anticipates that CHS will provide more support to HMA.
Bradenton-based Suncoast Workforce is assisting with both the career fair and training for new and current employees at HMA. Suncoast helped work with the economic development organizations in both counties to help convince the company to stay in Sarasota and to help find the skilled workers for the new positions.
"It's a fantastic opportunity for anyone in the region that has the background and the skills this company is looking for because they're continuing to expand," said Sally Hill, spokeswoman for Suncoast Workforce, the government-supported job agency for Manatee-Sarasota. "With expansion, there are opportunities to move into other positions or across other career ladders."
At Saturday's career fair, Suncoast Workforce's Prove It Testing bus will be on hand to help screen candidates for certain skills, like Excel for cashiering positions, Ratcliff said.
"Each one of these positions, we developed testing that's relevant to the role," he said. "It really, really helps us identify the top talent, the best candidates for these positions."