Three months after announcing the elimination of 350 jobs, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maryland has informed state officials of plans to cut another 233 positions as a result of contracting out information services.
Company officials said yesterday that the positions -- 7 percent of Blue Cross' current work force of 3,400 -- will be eliminated upon completion of an agreement with GTE Data Services of Florida.
"We expect it will be finalized by March 1," said Blue Cross spokeswoman Deb Nielsen.
But she said Blue Cross expects that GTE will hire most of the 233 workers and that "there will be little or no unemployment." Blue Cross employees who are not hired by GTE could be eligible for severance payments, she said.
Officials at GTE could not be reached yesterday.
GTE provides computerized information services to a number of Blue Cross plans in the nation. Terming the proposed agreement a "technology alliance," Ms. Nielsen didn't reveal how much it will cost or other terms, but said GTE will supply hardware and software for processing claims and providing information to Blue Cross' customers.
Blue Cross has been aggressively cutting costs under President and Chief Executive William L. Jews, who was hired in April 1993 and disclosed last year that he was looking for an outside company to provide information services.
Blue Cross has long had computer problems, aggravated by having separate systems for different branches of the business. "So there is an inefficiency currently in the way we operate," Ms. Nielsen said, adding that it is "definitely cheaper" for Blue Cross to hire a company with expertise rather than to rebuild the system itself.
Blue Cross employed more than 4,000 when Mr. Jews became president, but through cuts and attrition has been swiftly reducing employment.
Ms. Nielsen said the affected workers have known since at least December that they might lose their jobs with Blue Cross.