Contact Center Operations Contract Award
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) awarded the Contact Center Operations (CCO) contract to accept and respond to customer inquiries to Maximus Federal Services, Inc. (Maximus) under a full and open competition that began in November 2019. The contract award includes a base period for transition plus nine (one year) option periods, with a total contract value of $6.6 billion.
The CCO contract handles over 35 million customer inquiries a year for CMS programs such as 1-800 MEDICARE and the Health Insurance Marketplace. The CCO will offer a range of services and quality assurance across multiple customer contact channels, such as telephone, mail, email, TDD/TYY, fax, and web chat, enabling multi-channel access and 24/7 customer service. Both 1-800 MEDICARE and the Health Insurance Marketplace provides unbiased responses to people with Medicare, general Marketplace inquiries from consumers, their families and caregivers, and other individuals and entities that support consumers. These customer service channels are critical to providing information and assistance to people with Medicare and Marketplace consumers.
Customer service is integral to the programs the contact centers support, and historically have had some of the highest customer satisfaction scores within the federal government (95% satisfaction in Medicare and 92% in the Health Insurance Marketplace). These high scores would not be possible without the contribution of the contact center representatives that support the CMS programs.
CMS continues to value the hard work and dedication of the contact center representatives that handle the over 35 million calls a year from people with Medicare and consumers reaching out to the Health Insurance Marketplace for their coverage and informational needs. CMS leadership recently met with contact center representatives and continue to be impressed and awed by their commitment to the public and customer service. Their passion for the Medicare and Marketplace programs and callers was apparent. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, contact center representatives have remained committed to supporting the operation and providing people with Medicare and Marketplace consumers information to navigate their health care needs.
Maximus Federal Services, Inc. has served federal, state, and local government customers for more than 40 years, implementing and managing large contact centers and solutions. Maximus operates 84 contact centers in 28 states, employing more than 20,000 contact center agents/representatives, and handles more than 100 million contacts per year. Maximus has supported CMS contact centers for over 10 years (first, as a sub-contractor to General Dynamics) and since 2018 as the prime contractor responsible for the operation of 1-800 MEDICARE and the Health Insurance Marketplace contact centers.
CMS is committed to maintaining and improving the customer service standards that the public has come to expect, and we believe Maximus will continue to deliver high quality customer service for the people served by our programs.
Federal Contracting Process and Requirements
CMS followed the required processes as detailed in the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) and the Health and Human Services Acquisition Regulation (HHSAR).
- November 2019- initial Request for Information released to identify industry best practices and innovations
- Early 2020- CMS solicited additional information from industry as well as issuing various “Sources Sought” notices to determine best practices and the potential bidder pool
- March 2021- release of draft solicitations for industry comment and questions
- March 2021- pre-solicitation conference to ensure a fair competition and allow for clarifications on the workload and requirements for industry
- June 2021- solicitation was released and allowed for multiple rounds of questions and answers from industry, which resulted in issuing amendments to the solicitation as well extending the proposal due date to allow sufficient time for offerors to prepare and submit their proposals
- July 2021 to present- CMS has been evaluating proposals and conducting formal discussions with offerors, adhering to the source selection process defined in the FAR
Service Contract Labor Standards and Executive Orders
The Contact Center Operations contract is covered by the Service Contract Labor Standards established by the Department of Labor, which requires certain Federal Acquisition Regulation contract clauses to be included in the contract. These mandatory clauses establish many requirements for a contractor, including, but not limited to, the minimum wages and fringe benefits, safe and sanitary work conditions, notification to employees of minimum compensation, and equivalent federal employee classifications and wage rates.
Additionally, the Department of Labor establishes a minimum rate of employer contributions that should be applied to support employee health and welfare benefits as part of the Service Contract Labor Standards. The amount is determined by the geographical area and the prevailing wages. Health and welfare benefits under the Service Contract Act include: life, accident, and health insurance; sick leave; pension benefits; civic and personal leave; severance pay; and savings and retirement thrift plans. Minimum employer contributions must be an average dollar amount per hour computed based on all hours worked by employees employed on the contract. (The average dollar amount per hour is established as part of the Department of Labor wage determination.)
CMS will continue to monitor the established clauses and continue to be diligent in ensuring that the contact center vendor is in compliance with all regulations and applicable Executive Orders. CMS will continue to address all new Executive Orders, including the Executive Order on Non-displacement of Qualified Workers Under Service Contracts (dated November 21, 2021), as applicable. This also includes continuing to uphold President Biden’s Executive Order that increased the hourly minimum wage to $15 per hour for federal contractors as well as the Executive Order for paid sick leave.
Most locations and labor categories actually exceed the minimum wage determinations established by the Department of Labor and President Biden’s Executive Order for federal contracting minimum wages.
New Award Highlights
The newly awarded contract requires at least 15% of the Total Contract Value must be subcontracted to small business. This requirement encourages small business participation and multiple diverse vendor teams. Work is managed and coordinated by the prime contractor that is responsible for ensuring a cohesive customer experience across all vendors.
The new contract allows increased opportunities for the vendor to provide remote work opportunities for contact center representatives, necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The contract encourages the vendor to ensure adequate support and engagement opportunities for at home contact center representatives to ensure consistent and quality customer service is provided regardless of where the employee is located.
The new contract also expands the staffing and remote work capabilities for contact center representatives to increase opportunities for competitive and integrated employment.
Note: All current contact center locations remain for the new contract along with work from home opportunities for the contact center representatives. The current locations are: Bogalusa, LA; Brownsville, TX; Chester, VA; Hattiesburg, MS; Lawrence, KS; London, KY; Lynn Haven, FL; Phoenix, AZ; Tampa, FL; and Winchester, KY. No changes to locations are anticipated during the initial years of the contract.