The new $65.1 billion contract for the Tricare West Region is moving forward, following the dismissal of a protest, according to Defense Health Agency officials.

The award of the contract to TriWest Healthcare Alliance Corp. of Phoenix was reaffirmed following a protest filed with the Government Accountability Office by the current contractor, Health Net Federal Services, DHA officials announced April 20. The protest had been dismissed in February because defense officials pulled the contract back to address concerns in the procurement, according to a GAO official at the time.

With DoD’s decision, the contract for that region, for now, is on track to start in August 2024, pending any possible future protests or other legal actions.

In a statement provided to Military Times, officials with Health Net Federal Services said the company “is following the established process as we consider challenging this decision.”

Health Net “disagrees with the Department of Defense’s decision to reaffirm the award for the Tricare West Region contract for T-5, the next generation of Tricare.”

Health Net “is proud to continue to serve providers and beneficiaries under the current Tricare contract throughout 2023 and into 2024,” officials stated.

There are currently more than 2.8 million Tricare beneficiaries in the west region, and an additional 1.5 million beneficiaries will be transferred there from six states in the east region: Arkansas, Illinois, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas and Wisconsin.

All told, there are an estimated 9.6 million Tricare beneficiaries. The $70.9 billion east region contract was awarded to Humana Government Business of Louisville, Kentucky, the current contractor for the east region.

Combined, those two new contracts could potentially be valued at $136 billion over nine years. Under these managed care contracts, health care is provided to eligible members of the military, their families, retirees and their families. The new Tricare contracts will allow patients to transfer specialty care referrals to a new doctor when they move, whether their new duty station is in their current region or not. It will also provide improvements to customer service by reducing the average time to answer calls to 20 seconds, according to DHA officials.

According to the Defense Health Agency’s announcement, after officials received the protest, they “discovered information potentially impacting one area of the evaluation,” and they conducted an examination of the source selection record, before reaffirming the award.

The protest remains under a protective order at GAO, according to DHA.

There could be an additional protest filed with GAO, and contractors also have the avenue of filing separate legal challenges with the United States Court of Federal Claims. If additional protests are filed, the Defense Health Agency would be required to suspend work on the contract.

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.

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