Federal contract protest could save PGBA jobs

SOUTH CAROLINA (WMBF) - The potential loss of a military contract had hundreds of employees with PGBA, a subsidiary of BlueCross BlueShield, prepared for potential layoffs.

Now, company officials claim workers in their Surfside Beach office could keep their jobs a little longer.

"We did find out Wednesday that our prime contractor had been awarded the Tricare north contract, and that's excellent news for us," explained Billy Quarles, a spokesman for BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina.

PGBA's partner company, Health Net, signed a new deal with Tricare on Wednesday.  The new agreement is worth an estimated $17 billion and will carry out over the next five years.

Quarles said the majority of employees at the Surfside office handle the Tricare north contracts, so their jobs should be secure.

"This is very good news for PGBA and it's very good news for the employees," said Quarles.

Brad Dean, president of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, called PGBA a "valuable asset to the entire Grand Strand."

"PGBA is a silent giant in our economy. They provide hundreds of jobs, and most importantly, those are year round jobs that keep a lot of our residents employed throughout the year," said Dean.  "They have been a stable employer to many residents since the Air Force base closed, and if we were to lose some or all of those jobs, we would feel it for many years to come."

Quarles said the Tricare south contract is still being negotiated, so several hundred jobs in the Florence office are still hanging in the balance.  There's no time frame right now as to when a decision could be made on this contract, but Quarles said PGBA officials are hopeful there will be a positive outcome.

"We're hopeful and I can tell you that the PGBA employees throughout this whole process have continued to do their jobs, continued their services and at a very high level to the Department of Defense and to the U.S.military," he said.

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