Facing a tight window to award a new IT contract for HealthCare.gov
before the next open-enrollment period begins in November, the CMS has decided to extend Accenture's contract six months beyond its scheduled January expiration.
“With millions of consumers expected to visit the website during open enrollment, we believe it is unwise to potentially transition the systems development and maintenance to a new provider during the open-enrollment time frame,” CMS spokesman Aaron Albright said. “Given the limited time frame during which consumers may enroll in coverage, and the expected high volume of traffic, we believe that the extension is warranted.”
Originally, Accenture's $90 million one-year contract with the agency was on track to end in January 2015
, with a new contractor potentially taking over “at least two months prior to the start of the 2015 open-enrollment period,” according to the CMS. Open enrollment for 2015 begins Nov. 15 and ends Feb. 15, 2015.
The financial details for the extension are being negotiated and have not yet been finalized, Albright said.
Had Accenture failed to retain the HealthCare.gov business, it would have been expected to spend the overlapping contract period helping the new vendor transition to the account. But after the CMS changed the response time for requests for proposals
for the work from Aug. 18 to Sept. 18, to allow more time for interested vendors to respond, the agency realized the timetable was much too aggressive.
Accenture's contract now will come to a close July 10, 2015. The CMS now expects to award the work in February 2015.
An Accenture spokeswoman deferred request for comment on the extension to the CMS.Follow Virgil Dickson on Twitter: @MHvdickson