Longtime TRICARE contractor protests decision to go with another company

Health care firm tells The Washington Post military beneficiaries would suffer under new agreement.

Triwest Healthcare Alliance isn’t going down without a fight.

After losing a bid to represent 2.9 million TRICARE military beneficiaries in the western United States, the health care company filed a protest Monday with the Government Accountability Office, The Washington Post reported.

Triwest, which had been in charge of the Western region for 16 years, lost the Defense Department’s most recent $20.5 billion contract to UnitedHealth Group on March 16, despite a bid that was hundreds of millions of dollars lower, according to the Post. A spokesman for Triwest told the newspaper that some beneficiaries either would lose access to their current doctors or pay more to keep seeing them if the contract were to switch hands.

Kevin Dwyer, a spokesman for the TRICARE Management Activity, told the Post the decision to award the contract to UnitedHealth was based on “technical proficiency, past performance and price.” In 2009, UnitedHealth protested Defense’s reawarding of the TRICARE contract to Triwest, causing TRICARE to reissue its solicitation for bids.

According to the Post, Triwest is no stranger to setbacks: In September 2011, the company paid the government $10 million to settle a whistleblower lawsuit claiming it pocketed savings that should have been passed along to the government. Triwest spokesman Scott Celley told the newspaper the lawsuit was filed over “clerical errors.”