Medicare claims office leaving Palm Harbor

Published May 2, 2007

PALM HARBOR - A Palm Harbor company that processes Medicare claims announced Tuesday it would close its office and lay off 52 employees this summer.

Representatives of BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, the parent company of Palmetto GBA, said the move was part of an effort to restructure the company's Medicare operations.

"The decision was made that we could be more cost-efficient and more effective if we could consolidate the work being done in that office with other offices, " said BlueCross spokesman Billy Quarles.

Palmetto GBA currently has about 2, 700 employees in 14 states and is headquartered in Columbia, S.C.

Employees at the Palm Harbor location process Medicare claims from home health agencies and hospice providers. Quarles said BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina acquired the business 12 years ago.

"We kept the work force there because it was very experienced in Medicare, " he said. "That office has been very good for us and the medical beneficiaries because of the experience they have."

The Palm Harbor office, at 34650 U.S. 19, will close July 27. Employees were notified Tuesday of the closing. Quarles said he wasn't sure if staffers would be offered a severance package, but said the company does have a severance plan.

In February, company officials announced plans to lay off about 700 Palmetto GBA employees in South Carolina after unsuccessful bids for two Medicare contracts.