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Humana, Health Net protest loss of Tricare contracts

The health plans hope to make their case to gain back deals that could be worth billions of dollars.

By Emily Berry — Posted Aug. 4, 2009

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Physicians who care for Tricare beneficiaries can expect to deal with Humana and Health Net well into 2010, despite UnitedHealth Group and Aetna beating out the incumbents for five-year contracts that were supposed to kick in April 1, 2010.

The contracts to manage care for millions of active and retired military personnel and their families are worth billions of dollars to each company. The two companies on the losing end of the most recent bidding process filed protests with the Government Accountability Office a week after learning in July their contracts had not been renewed.

Tricare management is split into three regions: West, North and South. TriWest Healthcare Alliance, a group of Blues plans, was selected to continue to manage benefits in the West region. Aetna was awarded the North region where Health Net currently is contracted, and Humana lost the South region to UnitedHealth Group.

Health Net in its protest claimed Aetna had an unfair advantage because the government posted Health Net's bid price publicly online.

Tricare spokeswoman Bonnie Powell could not comment on the accusation, but confirmed that it was the basis for the protest.

The GAO has 100 days to review the contract awards.

Powell said the April 1 start date written into the new contracts was already expected to be moved because the contracts were awarded later than planned -- July 13 -- and the agreements call for a 10-month transition.

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