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DEFINITY HEALTH TO BOOST JOBS AT NEW OFFICES

Definity Health Corp. expects to add dozens of employees in the coming year, company executives said, as the Minneapolis-based insurance provider settles into its new home in the Town of Tonawanda.

Definity officially opened the doors of its new service center on Monday, as the nation's leading provider of so-called consumer-driven health care plans continues its rapid growth locally. It's already added about 100 workers since acquiring a pre-existing service unit located in Amherst last year.

The company's 60,000-square-foot complex, located in Ciminelli Development Co.'s Colvin Woods Business Park, will house the health insurer's largest operation, and its primary location outside of its headquarters.

The company's 340 Western New York employees, some of whom have already been working in the new facility, answer telephone calls from consumers and doctors, process claims and provide personal support to its members.

"Where the rubber meets the road is right here in our Buffalo service center," said Definity co-founder and Chief Executive Tony Miller. "That's where we deliver on our brand promise."

The two-floor facility, whose $10.3 million cost included state-of-the-art technology and training, features open workstations, no closed offices for senior management and a diagonal floor layout. The building can house 400 workers.

The facility is located alongside the I-290 and the company's lowercase blue-and-gray logo is visible to drivers on the Youngmann Highway. The property also includes the potential to add at least another 50,000 square feet of office space by constructing an additional building that would be linked through a courtyard to the current site.

That would boost total capacity to 600 workers, which executives expect they will need.

"If we continue to grow the way we are, we're going to need more capacity and space to handle the volume," Miller said. "If it keeps growing the way it is now, it'll be short order."

Founded in 1998, Definity Health is considered the pioneer of health insurance plans in which consumers learn to manage their own health care expenses from a special savings account and pay a high deductible before catastrophic medical coverage kicks in.

The company used North American Health Plans of Amherst to service clients before buying that unit from North American last year. Definity was recently acquired by UnitedHealth Group, also of Minneapolis and the nation's No. 2 health insurer.

UnitedHealth, which serves about 55 million Americans, folded its own consumer-driven health plan program into Definity, which will operate as a separate subsidiary. As a result, Definity now has 580 total employees, with the rest in Minnesota, Connecticut, or as salespeople in the field. The company serves 925,000 members through 300 large employers and 3,100 small employers.

Clients include Wells Fargo & Co., International Paper Co., Dade Behring, Citizens Financial Group, Amazon.com, BellSouth Corp. and CVS Corp.

Both Miller and Senior Vice President Timothy Godzich, also a co-founder and a Buffalo native, said UnitedHealth has been supportive of Definity's growth plans.

"We'll continue to assess our operations as part of UnitedHealth," Godzich said. "They're supportive of the hiring of dozens of employees in the next year."

The Definity facility is an anchor tenant of Colvin Woods, former cemetery land located on 40 acres south of the Youngmann Highway between Delaware Avenue and Colvin Boulevard. The office park will also be home to the U.S. Border Patrol and mechanical equipment contractor John W. Danforth.

e-mail: jepstein@buffnews.com