September 2, 2014

Democrats call for investigation into state bidding process (AUDIO)

Vince Powers, Nebraska Democratic Party

Nebraska Democrats have called on the legislature to investigate how the Heineman Administration awarded the state employee health insurance contract as well as answer questions raised by a state audit, critical of the state division that seeks bids and awards contracts.

Nebraska Democratic Party National Committeeman Vince Powers was asked during a news conference what questions he believes the committee should raise.

“Well, I know what questions I would start out asking,” Powers responded. “I would certainly ask why wasn’t the process followed, who was involved in this process, this so-called bidding process?”

A story published this week by the Lincoln Journal-Star raised questions about the process the administration used to make the switch from long-time health insurance provider Blue Cross-Blue Shield to UnitedHealthcare. Complicating matters, Blue Cross held the state contract for 27 years and is based in Omaha. UnitedHealthcare is based in Minneapolis.

The state made the switch July 1st. Approximately 17,000 state employees receive the benefit, which covers nearly 30,000 people.

The newspaper reports that an anonymous source provided documentation that indicated the state Department of Administrative Services awarded the contract to UnitedHealthcare before reviewing final cost figures. State Auditor Mike Foley earlier this week issued a state audit questioning the practices and even the competence of the department.

Powers said the manner in which the contract was awarded raises suspicions.

“We’re alleging there’s enough evidence here that we have absolutely no faith in anything (Gov.) Dave Heineman or Mr. Carlos Castillo say to explain it,” Powers stated. “And we want a neutral body to let us know.”

Castillo is director of the Department of Administrative Services.

AUDIO: Vince Powers, Nebraska Democratic Party, calls for investigation into state bidding process. [3 min.]