Medicare/Medicaid throws majority of work up for bid

WASHINGTON: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is looking for at least three agencies that will be responsible for nearly all of its outreach programs over the next five years.

WASHINGTON: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is looking for at least three agencies that will be responsible for nearly all of its outreach programs over the next five years.

Under its Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity policy (IDIQ), CMS selects a roster of "preferred" agencies and will hear pitches from only them for up to five years. The incumbents are Ketchum, Ogilvy PR, GCI Group, and Academy for Education Development.

"CMS is an important client, and we are always evaluating opportunities to enhance our partnership. As such, we are looking at the RFP closely," said Robert Mathias, MD of Ogilvy's Washington office.

The other firms did not confirm by press time whether they would repitch.

They and other agencies that want to bid have until June 10 to submit a proposal. CMS expects to award the contract in September. It will be for one year, with four renewal options.

The work, which is capped at $17.25 million for the period, involves a host of CMS outreach efforts, such as research, messaging, social marketing, education, training, and media relations.

Although the number of agencies under this contract has yet to be determined, the RFP notes that CMS is anticipating hiring "at least three."

One major priority for CMS public affairs in the coming years will be raising awareness of reforms mandated by the 2003 Medicare Modernization Act. Although the selected agencies will get a chance to work on some of those campaigns, CMS plans to issue additional RFPs for the bulk of that work, said contracting officer Jaime Galvez.

Congress has mandated that additional funding be allocated to support education and enrollment efforts around the legislation. The reforms include prescription drug coverage, new preventative-care services, more health plan options, and greater access to care in rural areas.

Beyond the Medicare reforms, CMS' external relations projects also include working with state health insurance assistance programs, distributing an annual Medicare & You booklet to beneficiaries, and overseeing the Regional Education About Choices in Health program.

Under the last umbrella contract, for example, Ketchum led a $25 million integrated marketing campaign to drive people to the Medicare (800) number and website.

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