News Column

Florence-based Company Slated to Hire 600 People

July 23, 2012

Gavin Jackson

A Florence-based company said that after being named a subcontractor in a recently awarded $20.5 billion defense contract that it will start hiring more than 600 people later this year.

PGBA LLC., a BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina subsidiary, will be providing UnitedHealth Military and Veteran's Services (UHMVS) with medical claims processing work, managing care support systems in the western United States.

PGBA says the five, one-year contracts will create 800 new jobs, with 145 employees being transferred internally, 445 hired in Florence and the remainder at offices in Columbia, Camden and Surfside Beach.

The new contract will expand the smaller offices and also grow the company to more than 2,700 employees.

But it took several years and several appeals for PGBA to get this contract with prime contractor UHMVS.

The contract was initially awarded to Phoenix-based TriWest Healthcare Alliance Corp. Triwest held the contract since 1996, but UMHVS, which also bid, launched an agency-level protest with the Tricare Management Activity (TMA) regarding their decision to TriWest for the West region. In July 2009, the TMA decided to re-evaluate the award, but was delayed by a pending resolution on an appeal in the South region where Humana Military Healthcare Services appealed and sustained its contract award against UMHVS (primary contractors can only be awarded one region).

In April 2011, the TMA updated its original request for proposals between TriWest and UHMVS. After almost a year, the TMA announced it would award the Tricare West contract to UHMVS, reversing its original decision. Ten days after the March 2012 announcement, TriWest filed a protest with the TMA and Government Accountability Office (GAO). After months of arbitration, the GAO upheld the West award to UHMVS, bringing years of waiting to an end for PGBA president Mike Skarupa and others at the company.

"It's been a long and complex and difficult procurement that started (with bidding) in March 2008 and we've been in this status for a little over three years, so we're delighted with the final outcome and look forward to serving those 2.9 million beneficiaries in West region," Skarupa said Thursday. "And credit goes to our employees because of the excellent service they deliver over a three-year period."

PGBA is no stranger to this process. The company, which provides subcontracting work to all three Tricare regions dealt with it for the renewal of the South and North contract. The differences between those were the thousands of jobs on the line, whereas now PGBA is slated to begin hiring later this year for the West contract.

In October 2009, the GAO and TMA received protests from Humana against the renewal of Health Net Federal Services $17.2 billion Tricare North contract. In May 2010 the GAO ruled to keep Health Net Federal Services, whom PGBA has been subcontracting with for 18 years.

Those North five, one-year contracts began in April 2011. The $23.5 billion South contract PGBA has had with Humana for 16 years began in April, and the West contract will begin April 1, 2013.

Last year PGBA processed about 40 million Tricare claims from the North and South regions.

Source: (c)2012 the Florence Morning News (Florence, S.C.). Distributed by MCT Information Services

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