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LS COVERED CA 4.JPGGov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation to allow the hiring of hundreds of call center employees in Rancho Cordova and elsewhere to assist in selling medical insurance through the state's new health care exchange.

"Most definitely, it 's going to allow us to move forward with hiring," said Dana Howard, spokesman for Covered California, the health exchange. "This was the key thing we needed to have resolved."

Senate Bill 509, signed Monday by Brown, lays the groundwork for hiring by requiring criminal background checks of potential call center employees who would have access to clients' personal, medical, tax or financial information.

Applicants can be rejected for positions in the health care exchange if state or federal criminal records show a conviction for a felony or misdemeanor -- or a pending criminal charge -- involving moral turpitude.

"Without this bipartisan legislation, these positions would have been on hold indefinitely," said Assemblyman Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, said in a written statement. "These security measures are essential for consumer protection."

Rancho Cordova's call center is expected to employ 500 people, including agents, managers and technology specialists. The facility consists of nearly 60,000 square feet in a leased building on White Rock Road.

Curt Haven, the city's economic development director, said he welcomes the fiscal boost that hundreds of workers would provide. "We have lots of restaurants and amenities for them," he said.

The Rancho Cordova call center, and others statewide, will answer questions from Californians interested in buying insurance mandated by federal law and sold through the state's new online exchange.

Covered California will serve households earning up to four times the federal poverty level, equal to $94,200 for a family of four.

Beginning next year, nearly all Americans must buy health insurance or pay a fine.

PHOTO: Executive Director of Covered California, Peter V. Lee addresses the media as California's health exchange held a news conference to announce how much it will cost to buy premiums under the new federal health care program in the state, at the California Museum, Thursday, May 23, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Lezlie Sterling


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