3 tips for Medicaid Health Plans on inviting solution vendors to your next RFP

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Many of our clients are health plan professionals working in the health and human services space (including Medicaid plans and Medicare Advantage plans). The article below is based on our experience working with health plan staff who have succeeded in improving vendor management and procurement activities.

Tip 1: Invite more than you need

Its always good to have options. You should try to have at least two very strong candidates make it past the initial evaluation period. And in order to do that, you probably need at least 4 bidders to submit a proposal. And in order to have that many proposals, you probably need to invite 5 or 6 bid. But do invite specific vendors you have initially vetted (versus a broad open call) when possible. This will mean more work on the front end of your procurement effort, but will lead to stronger proposals and more interested vendors.

Tip 2: Rely on references from your health plan peers

Your number one asset in this process are other health plans who have done business with the bidders. In the Medicaid space, most plan staff are less concerned about competition (except during MCO contract award cycles) and are more concerned about improving the delivery of services in the Medicaid program. Don’t be shy about asking your contacts in other plans their opinion on vendors. You may need to do so informally to reduce any concerns over sharing confidential information.

Tip 3: Hold a 1 on 1 pre-invitation discussion with each vendor

Remember your goal is high quality proposals. In order to provide those, vendors need to understand as much as they can about your goals for the project. In addition to the normal group Q&A call offered to vendors, consider offering 1 on 1 discussions to make sure vendors are aligned with your vision for the project. The number of vendors interested will dictate how much time you can invest in this step. Its also recommended to conduct this part of the process with another trusted external consultant if possible. This step will minimize confusion over goals and scope before proposals are submitted.

2 More Tips

Knowing what to do is only the first step. Knowing how to implement these tips with your current team and many other priorities is more complex.  Here are a few other pointers on improving your options for your next vendor procurement:

  1. Create a short list of invitees and gauge interest with them before executing your full procurement effort– List the three vendors that immediately come to mind, and have a half hour exploratory discussion with a small group from their team. This can help you rapidly identify any key changes or clarification needed to your requested project scope without the extensive resource cost of an RFI. We also help clients scan the competitive field for vendor shortlisting options, and are happy to discuss any time.
  2. Assign an existing team member to own the procurement effort from a project management perspective OR hire an external consultant to focus on the effort- If your project is not too large, or not too complex, you can assign a team member to drive key work items that are often overlooked like scheduling and action item management. We offer project management support in all our client engagements, and are happy to discuss any time.

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