Update: $400M CMS Federally Facilitated Exchange Support Task Protest

Updated February 2, 2021 

“DIGEST – 1.  Procuring agency is responsible for defining its needs and determining the best methods for meeting its requirements, and this extends to matters involving the relevance of offerors’ performance history.  

  1. Protester’s assertion that the terms of a solicitation should be more restrictive fails to state a basis for protest.
  2. Protester’s speculation that the agency will evaluate proposals in an unreasonable manner is premature.”

“BACKGROUND – In July 2019, pursuant to Federal Acquisition Regulation subpart 16.5, the agency issued the solicitation to firms holding indefinite-delivery indefinite-quantity contracts under CMS’s Strategic Partner Acquisition Readiness program.  The solicitation contemplates award of a task order for a one-year base period and four 1‑year option periods…” 

“On November 17, the agency amended the solicitation, providing specific information regarding the type of experience the agency will consider to be similar, stating: 

A system is of similar size to the FFE if it requires a similar amount of work to build and operate.  This includes the entire software development lifecycle, including post-launch operations and maintenance.  As such, a system of similar size also has multiple complex components, including external interfaces.  A system of similar size does not necessarily process a similar number of transactions or serve a similar number of users, since an automated system should have largely fixed operating costs (except, for example, things like hosting.)…” 

“DISCUSSION – Accenture primarily challenges the amended solicitation’s provision regarding assessing experience that is similar in size, focusing on the language stating that the agency may consider prior experience with another system to be similar in size even if it “does not necessarily process a similar number of transactions or serve a similar number of users.”  Protest at 9-13.  More specifically, Accenture asserts that the agency may not reasonably consider an offeror’s operation of state-based health exchanges to be similar in size because “user and transaction volume[s]” of state-based exchanges are significantly lower than the volumes experienced and anticipated under the FFE.  Id.  Accordingly, Accenture asserts that the amended solicitation’s provision regarding similarity of size is “unreasonable on its face,” and further complains that the provision improperly “conflates” consideration of size with considerations of scope and complexity.  Id. at 9-14.  

In responding to Accenture’s protest, the agency notes that the solicitation’s size provision does not limit the ability of Accenture–the incumbent contractor–to compete.  Agency Request for Dismissal, Dec. 11, 2020, at 2-4.  Accordingly, the agency maintains that Accenture does not qualify as an interested party to challenge this provision.  Further, the agency responds that Accenture’s complaints merely reflect its attempt to restrict competition and provide a greater advantage for Accenture’s incumbency.  Id.  More specifically, the agency asserts that Accenture’s protest merely reflects a desire to diminish the competitiveness of offerors whose experience is limited to operating state-based health insurance exchanges….” 

“DECISION – Accenture Federal Services, LLC, of Arlington, Virginia, protests the provisions of task order request for proposals (TORP) No. 191606, issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, seeking services to support operation of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) federally facilitated exchange. (FFE).  Accenture, the incumbent contractor, challenges the solicitation provisions regarding evaluation of corporate experience…” 

“Here, we view Accenture’s complaints regarding the terms of the solicitation as assertions that the solicitation should be more restrictive of competition.  As noted above, a procuring agency is responsible for defining its needs, and determining the best methods for meeting its requirements; this extends to matters involving the relevance of offerors’ performance history; and an agency may reasonably provide for an evaluation that fosters competition by increasing the feasibility of proposals submitted by non-incumbent offerors.  In this context, Accenture has not identified any procurement statute or regulation that establishes parameters for determining the relevance of an offeror’s experience with which the agency has failed to comply.  Additionally, it is not lost on this Office that, to the extent Accenture’s protest repeatedly references and relies upon its unique experience performing the current FFE contract, its protest is attempting to limit the agency’s meaningful consideration of offerors that appear to be no less experienced than Accenture was upon its award of the incumbent contract.  In this context, we see no basis to question the manner in which the agency states it will evaluate experience. 

Further, there is no question that Accenture is capable of complying with the solicitation provision regarding size similarity; that is, Accenture is not prejudiced by this provision–other than the “prejudice” of potentially facing more meaningful competition.  On this record, we do not view Accenture as qualifying as an interested party to challenge the provision.  Finally, to the extent Accenture is speculating that the agency will subsequently apply the stated evaluation factors in an unreasonable manner, its protest is premature and not for our consideration…” 

We dismiss the protest.” 

Access the full 5-page decision here. 

G2X TAKE: For those following the action closely in relation to the competition for this high-profile 5-year requirement to provide support for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Federally Facilitated Exchange, included above are details related to a recent protest dismissal presented in a detailed GAO decision document.  

As this was dismissed citing the protest as premature, this does not appear close to being resolved at this time.  


Updated January 22, 2021

Award Number: HHSM-500-2016-00003I

Task Order Number: 75FCMC21F0001

CMS is conducting a competitive procurement for continuation of FFM services. After corrective action and re-affirming an award, a second protest was sustained. CMS ic currently conducting a corrective action.

“Under this FFM sole source award, the contractor will operate, maintain, and provide development services as directed by the Centers of Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) for the current Exchange information technology (IT) applications.”

“The current FFM contract ends on January 10, 2021. CMS conducted a competitive procurement to renew the FFM contract; however, award has been delayed by two (2) protests by the unsuccessful Offeror…”

Read more here.


Updated January 12, 2021

G2X TAKE: Accenture Federal Services, a global consulting firm focused on helping Federal agencies to transform—becoming more customer-centered, data-driven, efficient and secure, has been awarded an 18-month bridge contract with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The first 6 months of funds, in the amount of $66M, was obligated upon award of the bridge contract. The contract was awarded using CMS SPARC and was not competed, citing only one source.  

No further details have been provided at this time as to next steps for the latest protest identified below challenging a 2019 award to Deloitte.


Updated December 9, 2020 

G2X TAKE: More than a year after the initial award was made, a fresh challenge has now been filed by Accenture Federal Services in relation to this high-profile 5-year requirement to provide support for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Federally Facilitated Exchange. 

No details are available as to the grounds for the protest at this time but they will be shared here as they are available. The listed due date for a decision is no later than March 17, 2021. 

Details on the prior sequence of actions is available in the thread below. 

Competed using CMS SPARC and drawing two bids, this award to Deloitte was just one in a series of wins the firm added at CMS in 2019. Details Here.  


Updated September 24, 2020

G2X TAKE: The latest protest action filed by Accenture in relation to this 5-year task, awarded late last year to Deloitte, to provide support for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Federally Facilitated Exchange has now been dismissed.

Please note that a ‘dismissal’ by GAO does not necessarily mean the issue is resolved and oftentimes only indicates the contracting authority/agency has agreed to proactively take some corrective action to address a deficiency identified as part of the protest process. More information will be provided here as it is made available.   

Details on the sequence of protests and the award to Deloitte are available in the thread below.


Updated June 23, 2020

G2X TAKE: Nearly a half year after seeing their initial protest dismissed, a fresh challenge has now been levied by Accenture in relation to this 5-year task, awarded late last year to Deloitte, to provide support for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Federally Facilitated Exchange.  

No details are available as to the grounds for the new protest put forth by Accenture, but they will be shared here as they are made available. The listed due date for a decision on this is no later than September 30, 2020. 

Details on the prior protest are available in the thread below.


Updated January 13, 2020 

G2X TAKE: The protest by Accenture related to this recently awarded 5-year task to provide support for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Federally Facilitated Exchange has now been dismissed. 

No details are available as to the grounds for the protest, nor the reason for the decision but they will be shared here as they are made available. 

Please note that a ‘dismissal’ by GAO does not necessarily mean the issue is resolved and oftentimes only indicates the contracting authority/agency has agreed to proactively take some corrective action to address a deficiency identified as part of the protest process. More information will be provided here as it is made available.   

Details on the protest and the award to Deloitte are available in the thread below.


Posted December 4, 2019 

G2X TAKE: A formal protest has been levied by Accenture related to this recently awarded 5-year task to provide support for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Federally Facilitated Exchange. 

No details are available as to the grounds for the protest but they will be shared here as they are made available. The listed due date for a decision is no later than March 11, 2020. 

Competed using CMS SPARC and drawing two bids, this award to Deloitte is just one in a series of wins the firm added at CMS in 2019. Details Here. 

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