MANATEE -- A health evaluation committee appointed by Manatee County government voted unanimously Monday to recommend a Michigan consulting firm to develop an important local health care plan.
After reviewing the references of Health Management Associates of Lansing, the five-person committee took about a half hour to decide HMA is their choice among the three firms that answered the county's request for proposals to develop a new community-wide health plan to better serve uninsured and under-insured residents.
"Health Management Associates provided a superior product and, overall, their employee engagement was phenomenal," said Jacob Erickson, chairman of the committee.
Committee members on Monday said that even though the cost of the contract, expected to be about $125,000, falls below the threshold required for county commission approval, due to the sensitive nature of the project it will probably be taken before the board so commission can review it and have the chance to ask questions.
"We recognize this has been on the board's mind and we just want to make sure we are mindful of their concerns," said committee member Kim Stroud of the county's human resources department.
Health Management Associates' task, if the county reaches a negotiated contract with it for a one-time fee, will be to answer one of Manatee County's most pressing public health care questions.
"How will Manatee County finance the delivery of the most amount of health care to the largest number of uninsured patients in our community?" asked Philip Brown, president of the United Way of Manatee County, at a recent committee meeting.
The pressing need for a new plan is because an indigent health care fund the county was using for decades from the sale of Manatee Memorial Hospital has now all but dried up.
Meanwhile, however, the county will start working with the vendor on the contract and make sure the scope is well laid out, Stroud added. Health Management Associates' bid to develop the local plan was $125,000. PricewaterhouseCoopers bid was $145,000.
Andy Guyre, a member of the committee, on Monday said he was impressed with what HMA did in Oregon, where they brought community partners together to accomplish a health care task.
"Oregon gave them glowing references," Guyre said. "I also liked their Orange County, Calif., project where they developed a plan to put 500,000 children in Los Angeles in Medicaid."
The committee had earlier eliminated LM Christmann Consulting of Bradenton from consideration, but HMA and PricewaterhouseCoopers/Health Council of West Central Florida were still in the running for the one-time contract before Monday.
Erickson also received references from an HMA project at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami and from Florida International University's new medical school.
"They all pretty much said the same thing, which is that HMA provided a great service and did a wonderful job," Erickson said. "They were all pretty consistent."
"The references overall showed us that HMA had a great amount of knowledge regarding the development of community-wide health care plans," Erickson added.
The committee had heard oral presentations on Dec. 2 from HMA and PricewaterhouseCoopers/Health Council of West Central Florida. After the pitches, the committee decided to check HMA's references.
The evaluation team that met Monday is made up of Dr. Jennifer Bencie of the Manatee County Department of Health, Jacki Dezelski of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, Guyre of the county Community Services Department, Stroud and Erickson of the county Purchasing Department.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@RichardDymond.