QSSI gets a 1-year extension on health care data hub

A long and drawn-out procurement including four rounds of protests and multiple federal lawsuits means that the incumbent contractor charged with maintaining a key piece of the Affordable Care Act infrastructure gets another year on the job.

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A long and drawn-out procurement including four rounds of protests and multiple federal lawsuits means that the incumbent contractor charged with maintaining a key piece of the Affordable Care Act infrastructure gets another year on the job.

The Data Services Hub is a tool that links multiple federal and state systems to determine eligibility under the Affordable Care Act. The current contactor – Quality Software Solutions, Inc. -- has been working in the ACA ecosystem since 2010 since the first round of contracts to support the healthcare law were awarded.

QSSI developed the Data Services Hub and also provided identity management services for ACA enrollees. QSSI's current $105 million task order to maintain the data hub expired March 31 of this year. The one-year extension was finalized by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on March 24, according to contracting documents posted on FedBizOpps on April 3. That task order itself was a multiyear sole-source extension going back to 2016 that was granted because the recompete solicitation was taking longer than expected.

But it turns out that CMS was just starting out on a long road to making a new data hub award. In January 2017, the agency put out a solicitation seeking a small business contractor to perform maintenance and upgrades on the system.

Vendors Scope Infotech, Inc. and Sparksoft Corp. were finalists but Scope had some problems with the evaluation criteria and filed three pre-award protests with the Government Accountability Office. Three times, CMS tried to award the contract to Sparksoft, arguing amid protests that both companies met the basic criteria to perform the contract but that Sparksoft offered a lower price.

CMS opened a fourth round of bidding in April 2018, and in June Scope was awarded the contract and Sparksoft protested, via a pre-award lawsuit in the Court of General Claims.

"If time is a flat circle that repeats upon itself ad infinitum, this government procurement followed that paradigm," Judge Charles F. Lettow wrote in a weary aside in his Jan. 24 decision to side with Sparksoft and order that CMS reevaluate both vendors' bids and conduct "realism analysis" on the proposed compensation plans.

QSSI's work under the extension is authorized through April 1, 2020. That period includes the next open enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act.

NEXT STORY: EIS contract announcements brewing

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