Speaking at CBI’s Sunshine & Aggregate Spend Conference in Washington DC on Tuesday, Shantanu Agrawal, director, data sharing and partnership group, center for program integrity, CMS, said the agency hired IT company CGI to build the software platform to be used for publishing pharma payments to physicians under the Sunshine Act provisions, now re-branded “open payments.” Agrawal, formerly a management consultant at McKinsey & Company, said feedback from industry suggested that the word “sunshine” implied a negative value judgment. Agrawal emphasized that CMS is neutral on whether payments to physicians are ultimately good or bad for public health. “The purpose of our program is really about transparency,” said Agrawal, on a May 22 conference call. “It is not to suggest that [payments] are either beneficial or harmful universally.”
As for CGI’s role in the program, Agrawal said the first round of payment data would go public no later than September 30, 2014, a date several conference goers considered “very optimistic.” However, if that date gets pushed back, it probably won’t be CGI’s fault; the 90-day period directly preceding the publication date is when doctors have a chance to go online – before the payments are published – and dispute any dollar amounts they find next to their own names.
The CMS/CGI contract is the most recent addition to what appears to be a strong record of organic growth for CGI Federal, the federal government division of CGI located in Fairfax, Virginia. CGI has been supporting CMS websites like Medicare.gov since 1999, according to CGI’s website. In 2004, CGI announced the signing of several CMS contracts totaling over $100 million, and including technical solutions and support for CMS’s Health Plan Management System, Fraud Investigation Database, and physician enrollment and identification systems, in addition to maintaining Medicare.gov.
In 2008, CGI Federal landed a two-year, $27 million contract for work on the implementation of CMS’s Provider Enrollment Chain and Ownership System (PECOS) One-Stop-Shop release. In 2009, CGI Federal scored a five and a half year contract worth up to $135 million for Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D maintenance and enhancement services. In 2010, CMS re-upped its contract with CGI Federal for Medicare.gov and added cms.hhs.gov and MyMedicare.gov to the mix. That contract, worth $73.2 million over five years, asked CGI to continue its efforts to modernize, manage and maintain the three CMS websites.
CGI Federal had a particularly good run with CMS in 2011, picking up a contract worth up to $93.7 million to build the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchange, known as the Federal Exchange (FX). That contract was structured on a two-year base, with three one-year option periods. Also in 2011, CGI picked up a $8.9 million two-year contract to develop and implement the CMS Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight’s (CCIIO) Rate and Benefits Information System (RBIS), according to CGI’s website. CGI Federal also won another PECOS-related contract – worth $55 million over five years – in 2011.
CGI Federal was not immediately available for comment, or to confirm the Open Payments software contract and the contract’s price tag. Based on contract announcements listed on CGI’s website, CMS has likely paid CGI close to half a billion dollars for IT services over last 10 years. On an HHS list of active CMS contracts from 2011, CGI Federal was listed 12 times, with contracts totaling roughly $150 million. Any comments from CGI about its relationship with CMS or the value of its most recent contract will appear here, as an update.
Separately, CMS rolled out two Open Payments mobile apps in July – one for the pharma industry, and one for doctors – in an effort to make the data collection around transfers of value easier to manage. Those two apps were launched in July, and are available for free on Android phones and iPhones.