Kemp’s office selects consultant to craft health care ‘waiver’

Gov. Brian Kemp's administration selected consulting giant Deloitte on Monday to craft a plan that state leaders hope will ease health care coverage for more poor and middle-class Georgians under the Affordable Care Act.

The governor’s office said Deloitte won the contract with a bid of $1.92 million, less than the $2.6 million the state budgeted for the process this year.

The firm was one of six companies that was permitted to bid on the process, sparking criticism from some health care advocates who say it should have been open to more competitors.

Kemp's administration opened the bidding in May, shortly after the Republican signed legislation that allowed him to pursue "waivers" from President Donald Trump's administration that could seek more federal health care funding.

The governor has said he's open to several options, including a limited expansion of the Medicaid program to more poor people, an attempt to lower prices for insurance plans on a state's ACA exchange and an effort to incorporate conservative facets such as work requirements.

The governor’s office has set a tight timeline. The request for bids sought consultants who would provide options by Sept. 30, and Kemp’s office hopes to make its choices and submit them to the federal government by the end of this year.

Those procurement documents do not shed light on the specific goals that Kemp's office wants the waivers to achieve, though he's said he and his aides will be involved in the process.

Lawmakers gave him the power to pursue the waivers earlier this year by restoring authority that was stripped from Gov. Nathan Deal in the heat of an election campaign in 2014. The law restricts Kemp from seeking full Medicaid expansion, a policy that he opposes anyways.

The governor and other influential Republicans say that growing the Medicaid program is too costly in the long run but say they are open to more limited changes.

Democrats, along with some Republican lawmakers, have urged Kemp to seek a full-scale expansion to provide health care to hundreds of thousands of needy Georgians and bolster the state's flagging rural hospitals. 

Deloitte beat out bids from five other companies - Accenture, Ernst & Young, KPMG, McKinsey and Public Consulting Group – on the state’s list of approved service providers for agencies that was drawn up last year.

His office has said the bids were limited to those six firms because they are the only ones with experience drawing up waiver proposals, though some potential competitors and experts have questioned the process.

Campaign finance records show that Deloitte donated $6,600 to Kemp in September and made contributions to several other Republican leaders. The firm did not contribute to his opponent, Democrat Stacey Abrams, in 2018 but gave $1,000 to her state House campaign three years ago.

- Staff writer Ariel Hart contributed to the article.