NU Online News Service, Sept. 15, 2003, 3:23 p.m. EDT – The Health Net Federal Services unit of Health Net Inc., Woodland Hills, Calif., says it has filed protests of U.S. Department of Defense decisions involving contracts for the Tricare managed care system to protect itself against protests filed by other carriers.

Tricare is a federal program that provides health care for 8.7 million military personnel, veterans and dependents away from military bases and veterans health care facilities.

The government has been trying to reduce the number of regions in the Tricare system to three, from 15. It recently announced plans to award the $2.2 billion contract for its new North region to Health Net.

The North region includes Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Health Net has been managing Tricare contracts in three regions that include Alaska, Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Washington, portions of Idaho and Yuma, Ariz.

The Defense Department rejected bids by Health Net to manage Tricare contracts in its new West and South regions.

The department awarded the South region contract to Humana Inc., Louisville, Ky., and the West region contract to TriWest Healthcare Alliance Corp., Phoenix.

Two losing bidders for the North region contract, Aetna Inc., Hartford, and Sierra Health Services Inc., Las Vegas, have filed protests of the North region award, Health Net says.

“We will vigorously defend our award of the North region, yet it is also critical that we protect our interests in the West and the South until our contract in the North region is no longer subject to challenge,” Jim Woys, president of Health Net Federal Services, says in a statement about the Health Net protests.