Mid-November, the House passed the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (or DATA Act), which stands to improve the transparency of federal spending. Introduced back in May of this year, the legislation would standardize and publish government reports and data related to financial management, procurement, and assistance. <font >
Under the legislation, the Treasury department is called to establish data standards in consultation with OMB, GSA, and the heads of federal agencies. In addition to standardizing the information, the data would be made publicly accessible in machine-readable format through the improved USASpending.gov site. Recipients of federal funding, including state and local organizations, would regularly report how money is being spent.
The accessibility of this data holds promise for delivering greater transparency to citizens and investors, identifying and eliminating waste and fraud through data analytics, and facilitating automation of compliance for contractors and grant recipients.
Introduced back in May, the House vote on H.R. 2061 passed the House on November 18, 2013. The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs passed their version of the bill (S. 994) and reported it to the full U.S. Senate on November 6, 2013. Although a version of the bill passed the House in 2012, it failed to receive Senate committee votes.
Currently, the version in of this legislation in the Senate removes a provision for an expanded role of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board’s accountability platform. This existing system has aided inspectors generals to find waste and fraud in stimulus grants and contracts. The substitute amendment not only cuts this accountability platform, it removes “prevent waste, fraud, abuse, and improper payments” from the goals of the bill. It might seem like this move hamstrings the inspectors generals ability to use this data, but that may not be the case. Once the data is available, other systems and technologies may advance to provide more robust analytics solutions. Although the Recovery Board’s accountability platform already exists, the Board itself is scheduled to end its operations in 2015. Unless the final version of the bill expands the accountability platform, inspectors general will be faced with a window to identify a replacement capability for recovering and preventing fraud.
Through its Open Data policy and associated initiatives, the administration has sought leverage transparency to stimulate innovation, increase efficiency, and reduce waste. Back in September 2013, the Data Transparency Coalition hosted the nation’s first open data policy conference to explore opportunities for new tools to streamline processes. As momentum behind these efforts continues and financial reporting requirements persist, contractors and grant recipients should anticipate further spending scrutiny to drive transparency and decrease waste, fraud, and abuse.
In July, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released yet another round of funding under the health insurance exchange (HIX) establishment grants. Colorado was awarded a Level 2 grant, while Nevada, New Mexico, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia all received Level 1 grants.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the recent awards:
· Colorado - $116,245,677
o Funds will be used to support outreach/education activities. They will also be used to assist in the development of Colorado’s consumer service center.
· Nevada - $9,020,798
o Funds will be used to support information technology security requirements, in addition to development of a virtual assistant to allow the state’s HIX to provide one-on-one consumer support and training.
· New Mexico - $18,600,000
o Funds will be used to support comprehensive outreach and marketing activities, training efforts, and standards for establishing the state’s Navigator program.
· Vermont - $42,687,000
o Funds will be used to support the design, development and implementation of the marketplace portion of fully integrating Medicaid and CHIP into the state’s newly integrated eligibility environment.
· Virginia - $1,247,402
o Funds will be used to perform analyses and reviews necessary to support certification, decertification and recertification of qualified health plans and stand-alone dental plans.
· West Virginia - $10,165,243
o Funds will be used to support the development of the state’s in-person assistance personnel and plan management activities.
States operating their own exchanges only have two months to get them up and running for consumers to enroll in plans that will begin in January 2014. HHS has awarded more than $4 billion so far in federal funding to support Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirements. This funding, which is critical to states’ development of HIX systems, will continue through 2014.
On the procurement side of the spectrum, July brought a lot of activity across health and social services departments. Here are a few contracts awarded last month:
Missouri - The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services awarded its “Spirit System Software Enhancements” project to Custom Data Processing.
Arkansas - The Arkansas Health Connector Division awarded CAI to provide a guide management solution.
Wisconsin - The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families awarded Deloitte for “Child Support Enforcement Document Generation, System Integration Implementation and Training Services.”
And here’s a few projects coming down the pipeline:
Pennsylvania - The Philadelphia Department of Public Health (DPH) released a request for information (RFI) for health interface engine solution services. The state is seeking information on ways to facilitate the exchange of health-related data between several applications within the city.
Tennessee - The Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration confirmed plans to release a solicitation for pharmacy benefit management (PBM) services in June 2014. The current contract is held by CVS Caremark and expires in June 2015.
Nevada - The Nevada Department of Administration, on behalf of the Public Employees’ Benefits Program (PEBP), released an RFI for corporate medical exchange services. The state is seeking information on the scope of the market for the exchange to provide health insurance and related benefits to more than 31,000 people.
South Carolina - The South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services anticipates releasing a draft RFP and RFI for Medicaid management information system (MMIS) provider management services.
Wisconsin - The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families released an RFI for “Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Collections Mainframe Transition Services.” The department is seeking information regarding moving similar systems from a mainframe environment to the Web.
Florida - The Florida Department of Health released an RFI for patient portal services. The department is looking to integrate a commercial solution to provide functionality required of a patient portal as a component desired to meet the 2014 electronic health record (EHR) certification criteria.
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April saw the release of a tenth round of Health Insurance Exchange (HIX) Establishment Grants, awarded to Arkansas ($16.5 million), Hawaii ($128.1 million), Illinois ($115.8 million), New Hampshire ($5.4 million), and Rhode Island ($9.8 million). Details about states’ plans for these funds are explained here. On a related note, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) also announced the availability of new funding to support navigators in states with federally-facilitated or state-partnership HIX models. Activity also picked up in states that received funding for model design through CMS’ state innovation model (SIM) initiative, including Texas and Iowa.
Notable solicitation releases in April included:
- The District of Columbia Department of Health Care Finance (DHCF) released an RFP for a Medicaid Information Technology Architecture (MITA) State Self-Assessment (SS-A). Deltek will provide updates about the future procurement of a Medicaid management information system (MMIS) here.
- The Rhode Island Department of Administration, on behalf of the Department of Human Services (DHS), released an RFP for maintenance and operations of the InRHODES eligibility system.
- Three states released RFPs for pharmacy benefits management (PBM) services, including the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS), Mississippi Department of Health (DOH), and the Indiana Department of Administration (DOA).
- New Hampshire’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) released an RFP for SIM planning services.
Notable contract awards in April included:
- The Mississippi Department of Health (DOH) awarded its Patient Information Management System (PIMS) contract to Siemens Medical Solutions for just more than $3 million.
- The Hawaii Department of Human Services awarded the Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program contract to Xerox for nearly $9 million.
- The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) awarded its Health Insurance Exchange (HIX) Call Center project to Xerox. Deloitte is building the state’s HIX through a contract awarded in October 2012 for more than $100 million.
- The Alabama Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation awarded the Integrated Health Record System contract to CoCentrix.
- The Connecticut Health Insurance Exchange awarded its Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) project to HealthPass.
Big news surfaced in Louisiana with the cancelation of a $29 million contract with Deloitte for the replacement Medicaid Eligibility Determination System (MEDS), originally awarded in April 2011. The state’s Office of Contractual Review cited the original RFP included a preference for a .net solution while Deloitte's contract proposal uses Microsoft Dynamics. The Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) asked for an additional requirement for the system that was outside the original scopeand warranted a new RFP release. Prior to becoming the secretary of DHH, Bruce Greenstein was managing director of Worldwide Health for Microsoft. Greenstein also hired another Microsoft employee, Zachery Jiwa, to be DHH's chief technology officer, but he left the department in November 2012. DHH now plans to release a new RFP for the replacement MEDS.
Looking to May and the upcoming summer months, we anticipate activity will pick up in states participating in the SIM initiative as CMS approves states’ proposals, of which many have now undergone changes after initial review from CMS. We also anticipate an influx of contract awards for HIX navigator programs, particularly with CMS’ announcement of the availability of federal funding for navigators. States in federally-facilitated or partnership HIX models may also begin to draft legislation and plan for takeovers of additional HIX functions in the future, such as the recently enacted House Bill 1508 in Arkansas.
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The most common technologies and services procured across states and localities in December were fire alarm and suppression systems, security/cctv systems and 911 systems. The word cloud below provides a visual interpretation of key-term frequency.
- 911 systems: 6 solicitations
- Security/ CCTV systems: 19 solicitations
- Fire Alarm or Suppression Systems: 19 solicitations
Public safety communications for cities and counties around the country hit a turning point in December. While there were numerous trends throughout 2012 – from an increase in the use of NG911 technologies, to public safety institutions beginning to use cloud-based options for computer-aided dispatch (CAD) records management systems (RMS) – one trend exceeded them all: narrowbanding.
December was the final month localities had to meet the FCC’s narrowbanding requirement or request waivers if they had no hope of doing so. Even those granted waivers were required to have concrete plans in place about how and when they expect to meet the deadline, and localities worked diligently to put those in place. Several localities announced plans to replace or upgrade their radio systems in the near future, and others made definitive decisions about how they would be moving forward with those projects. Fulton County, Ga., released an RFP on December 28 for its radio system, and Carroll County, Md., made the decision to move forward with its radio system without the aid of a consultant. Despite the passage of the narrowbanding deadline, many counties and cities will still be looking to upgrade their radio systems in the coming months and years, as a large number have not yet met the FCC’s requirements.
Radio solicitations were not the only ones released in December; several states and larger localities also moved forward with large-scale projects that had been in the works. The city of Freemont, along with Dodge County, Nebraska, released an RFP for 911 call processing equipment. Massachusetts released an RFP for its electronic filing project two years after the RFI was issued. The state also released a solicitation for an inmate phone system for all facilities run by the state corrections department.
Numerous requests for information for major projects were also released in December. Kansas released an RFI for E911 GIS for all of the state’s public safety answering points (PSAPs), and Vermont issued a statewide RFI for an automated vehicle locating system for the Department of Public Safety.
The widespread release of solicitations highlights one of December’s main trends: increased clarity regarding the direction of projects. Across the county, it seems as though decisions were finally being made about how to proceed with projects. Florida finally canceled its initiative to develop a federated security plan after releasing an RFI in July 2011, and in Alaska, development of a solicitation for a case management system has officially begun.
The last major trend of December involved, unsurprisingly, increased interest in emergency notification systems. After the devastating weather phenomenon experienced in 2012, from July’s derecho to Superstorm Sandy, localities are beginning to realize the importance of being able to contact citizens at a moment’s notice. The increase in electronic communications has underscored the need for communities such as Honolulu, Hawaii, and Illinois State University to branch out in how they communicate with citizens.
Vendors should be on the lookout for more solicitation releases in the coming months. It is likely that departments will issue RFIs to gather budget information for projects they hope to pursue in the coming fiscal year, which begins for most states and localities on July 1. Many departments will also begin assembling their budget proposals if they have not done so already, and they will require a clear picture of expected costs. This may also be the reason for the rise in solicitations. Often, departments are required to use the funds they have been granted before the end of the fiscal year, or they risk losing them. By releasing RFPs now, it is likely that they are counting on being able to award them and sign a contract prior to the beginning of the fiscal year.
Many local agencies are also taking the fiscal cliff and sequestration into account as they make decisions about what projects will move forward. While the fiscal cliff was averted earlier this week, the bill passed acted only as a stopgap measure, and sequestration is still very much a reality. Congress only has until March 1 to pass additional measures to keep sequestration from going into effect. Agencies are therefore likely to continue working quickly to utilize any federal grant money they were given for this year. Should sequestration take effect, this grant money may be reduced or eliminated completely; so many communities are seeking to upgrade systems now in anticipation of the reduction in funds that may come next year.
These factors help explain the increased clarity on whether projects will be moving forward, as it will be imperative for solicitations to be released in the next few months to ensure that localities have time to conduct a complete evaluation period prior to the end of the current budget cycle. For those working on larger, multiyear projects, or that are allowed to carry over funds, it is still likely that procurement and program officers will be looking to move forward with projects as soon as possible. Expect solicitations to be released sometime toward the end of Q1 or beginning of Q2 so that agencies will be ready to award projects once FY 13 funds become available in July.