Want a giant D.C. government health care contract?

Posted at 05:54 PM ET, 04/24/2012

Want a giant D.C. government health care contract?

By Mike DeBonis, Washington Post

Thompson’s days in the health care business could be numbered. (C-SPAN)

The D.C. Department of Health Care Finance today issued a solicitation for new contractors to manage the care of the 165,000 city residents in publicly financed health programs.

This is notable for two reasons: First, the sheer amount of money at stake is enormous. Upwards of $600 million in local and federal funds will be spent via these contracts. Second, it means Jeffrey E. Thompson’s days in the health care business might officially be numbered.

Recall that Health Care Finance Director Wayne Turnage told a D.C. Council panel last week that it would be “unlikely” that Thompson’s Chartered Health Plan would hold on to its contract as long as he remains its owner.

The current managed-care contracts are set to expire in May 2013.

Thompson has been under a microscope since federal agents raided his home and offices last month, revealing his role in an ongoing probe of campaign finance in the city.

Chartered’s CEO has told the city he’s seeking to purchase the company from Thompson, and now the clock starts ticking on consummating a deal.

If Thompson can’t unload the company before the solicitation expires — a complicated process that includes approval from insurance regulators — Chartered’s value would be questionable, considering the D.C. managed-care contract is its sole source of business. (For a more detailed overview of the considerations at stake, check out Ben Fischer’s Friday piece in the Washington Business Journal.)

The solicitation lists a deadline date of May 18 for the submission of proposals, but Turnage said Tuesday that date would likely be extended “to better manage the selection process internally.”

The question is, besides Chartered and the city’s other current contractor, UnitedHealthcare, who will respond? Turnage said last week at least three bidders, including health care firms with a “national profile,” had expressed some interest.

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