Thursday, October 17, 2002

Area firm seeks shot at contract

Local officials irked Ohio leaning toward Va. concern

By Karen Vance
Enquirer contributor

LOVELAND - A local company is getting the support of officials and politicians in its efforts to have the state consider it for a big contract.

Executives at Provider Synergies, based in Miami Township, want the opportunity to bid on the state's prescription rebate/discount contract. The company currently provides the same service for Florida, Illinois, Louisiana and West Virginia.

But the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services is considering expanding its existing contract with First Health Services Corp., a Virginia-based company, to include the rebate program instead of putting it out to bid.

And that has state Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Loveland, upset that the Ohio company isn't even being considered, especially because it has a track record that includes saving Florida $128 million.

"I want the best price possible, and I think that's what this department should be looking for," she said. "I think we should go out to bid. I don't care if it takes six months. We have to be accountable. This is taxpayer money."

A provision in Medicaid law allows for the creation of preferred drug lists to save the state money on prescription drugs. Provider Synergies wants the contract to create such a list for Ohio, as it has in other states.

Jon Allen, a spokesman for ODJFS, said that expanding the contract with First Health Services is only a short-term option, and one that hasn't been approved by the federal officials who supervise Medicaid.

"Whatever is done in the short-term, whether an extended contract or a bid process, the program in the long term will go out to bid," he said.

But that's not the message Ms. Schmidt was getting in Columbus when Miami Township Administrator David Duckworth, Clermont Chamber of Commerce president Denny Begue and County Commissioner Bob Proud testified on behalf of Provider Synergies at a committee meeting recently.

There, Ms. Schmidt heard the deputy director of ODJFS tell the committee that federal officials already had approved the plan.

"I don't think we're getting a straight answer from that department," she said.

For Mr. Proud, the issue isn't just that it's a Clermont County company - it's about fairness.

"We're not saying the state should give them the project," he said. "We're just saying, `Give them a place at the table.' "

Daniel Kincaid, vice president of Provider Synergies, said he's pleased Ms. Schmidt and the other local officials have been sticking up for the firm. The company, which has 12 employees with a $2 million payroll, would likely add six or seven pharmacists to its staff to meet Ohio's needs, he said.

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