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Company that lost clinic contract files protest

HELENA — A Montana health care group that lost its bid to run a state employee clinic has formally protested the awarding of the contract to a Tennessee firm, arguing the state incorrectly scored the proposals and violated state procurement laws.

MiCare of Montana filed its protest with the Department of Administration last Wednesday, Lee Newspapers of Montana reported. The protest letter argues if the bids had been scored correctly, MiCare would have won.

Officials with the state Health Care and Benefits Division said Friday they're moving ahead with final contract talks with CareHere of Brentwood, Tenn., which runs nearly 120 employee health clinics nationwide. CareHere was declared the winner of the bid on May 18, but a contract has not been signed.

Gov. Brian Schweitzer proposed setting up a clinic to provide low-cost, primary health care for 11,000 state employees and their dependents in the Helena area, with the possibility of opening other state employee clinics around Montana.

The 12-page protest focused on how state officials scored the costs of each proposal and said the state has still not explained the reasons behind its cost comparisons, which MiCare argues contradicts figures in the original bids.

For example, CareHere's original proposal to provide health screenings for state employees had a $532,000 price tag, compared to MiCare's offer of $349,000. The protest argues the state used different figures to calculate CareHere's proposal as having the lowest cost.

The protest also alleged the state violated procurement laws by allowing CareHere to modify its proposal to respond to services offered first by MiCare, such as physical therapy.

"Rather than rewarding MiCare for (its) thoughtfulness in providing these costs and plans, the state simply turned the MiCare proposal over to the other vendor and asked them what they might charge," MiCare attorney Bruce Spencer of Helena wrote in the protest letter.

MiCare is a partnership of the Western Montana Clinic in Missoula, a Billings health-benefit manger and a Helena benefits consulting firm.

If the state rewards a final contract to CareHere, MiCare will assume its protest was rejected and will have the option of going to court, its officials said Friday.

 

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