NU Online News Service, Dec. 9, 2003, 12:44 p.m. EST – The U.S. General Accounting Office has denied a protest by Sierra Health Services Inc., Las Vegas, of an award that could cut Sierra out of the TriCare program.[@@]

TriCare is a program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense that provides health coverage for military personnel, veterans and military dependents away from military and veterans medical facilities.

Sierra has been a major TriCare contractor in the past. Now it is seeking a contract to cover 2.8 million people in the program’s North region.

TriCare procurement managers awarded the contract to a unit of Health Net Inc., Los Angeles.

The GAO Office of the General Counsel rejected Sierra’s appeal of the decision and denied allegations by Sierra that TriCare procurement managers failed to observe federal procurement regulations in evaluating TriCare proposals.

“Sierra will evaluate the GAO’s ruling and determine its best course of action, which may include a proceeding before the Court of Federal Claims involving a complete hearing on the company’s complaint of serious and material errors in the evaluation process and findings,” Sierra says in a statement about the GAO ruling.

Health Net put out a statement welcoming the GAO ruling.

The North region will provide health coverage for 1.7 million people in 20 states. The government expects the TriCare contract for the region to generate about $1.4 billion in annual revenue.

The new North region contract is scheduled to take effect in July 2004.