This story has been updated with a comment from Wellpoint.
The government’s watchdog has rejected nine bid protests filed this past summer by three companies over a lucrative Defense Department contract to deliver health care to service members, military retirees and their families.
The Government Accountability Office on Nov. 9 denied the protests filed by Health Net Federal Services, UnitedHealthcare and Wellpoint Military Care related to the two multi-billion dollar TRICARE 2017 contracts Defense awarded in July.
“GAO reviewed the protesters’ multiple challenges to the selection decisions and found no basis to sustain or uphold the protest,” said a statement from Ralph O. White, GAO’s managing associate general counsel for procurement law. “In denying the protests, GAO concluded that the agency’s evaluation was reasonable, consistent with the terms of the solicitation, and in accordance with procurement laws and regulations."
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GAO will post its final decision on the bid protests on its website when sensitive or proprietary information in the documents is removed.
Defense had awarded Health Net Federal Services the TRICARE West Region contract, worth $18 billion over the next six years, compared to the $41 billion East Region contract awarded to Humana (the contractor currently managing TRICARE South). Health Net Federal Services decided to protest the contract award it lost, along with other losing contractors UnitedHealthcare and Wellpoint. Health Net Federal Services has worked with the Defense Department since 1988, managing the TRICARE North Region.
The new contracts, which take effect nine months after the award date, consolidated the three TRICARE regions (North, South and West) into two (East and West) regions. The East Region merges the North and South regions, and therefore is a more lucrative contract than the West Region one. The awards do not change the benefits available to enrollees and offer all the same options.
UnitedHealthcare, currently managing the TRICARE West contract, “remains fully committed to serving the health care needs of our country’s military service members, retirees and their families in the TRICARE West Region, including a successful transition,” said Bruce Jasurda, the company’s vice president of communications, in an email. “We will continue to look for opportunities to support the government and bring quality and innovative solutions to meet the health care needs of our nation’s military families and veterans.”
Wellpoint Military Care (part of Anthem, Inc.) is "disappointed in the Government Accountability Office’s decision to uphold the assessment by the Defense Health Agency to not award WMC the TRICARE 2017 Managed Care Support Services Contract for the East Region," said Cathy Taylor, staff vice president for brand public relations at Anthem, in an email. "The company continues to have tremendous respect for DHA and its efforts to provide health care services to active duty military members, retirees and their families. WMC is in the process of reviewing the GAO’s decision and evaluating its options."
Health Net Federal Services did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Defense Health Agency issued a statement over the summer seeking to reassure TRICARE beneficiaries, saying that the bid protests would not disrupt their access to health care.