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Where to Start with Federal Healthcare Contracting

Scott A. Honiberg and Jeffrey E. Weinstein, for HealthLeaders Media, September 15, 2008

Every day, federal agencies quietly announce grants and other competitive bidding opportunities for almost every different kind of medical specialty and subspecialty. These kinds of solicitations present attractive opportunities for providers in all areas of the healthcare industry and in all parts of the country. Collectively, they represent billions of dollars annually. Ironically, the vast majority of them will go unnoticed by providers in the private sector.

Federal agencies don't do a good job marketing most of their business opportunities. Time-tested buying practices favor experienced government contractors—those who already have contacts and contracts, those who know where to look, and those who understand the procurement process.

Information about government contracts tends to be found in sources that simply don't hit the radar screen of most providers in private practice. With the exception of major, multi-billion dollar initiatives, most federal healthcare contract opportunities will go unnoticed by the majority of providers best qualified to bid on them—until it's too late. For HealthLeaders Media readers, however, that's all about to change.

Get familiar with this site

For anyone interested in any kind of federal healthcare contract, this Web site, Federal Business Opportunities is probably the single most important piece of information to remember. Federal Business Opportunities takes you to the official homepage for purchasing and procurement information for virtually all federal agencies. The home page provides links to numerous other sites that contain background material, references, and related procurement information. Most importantly, however, is that the home page includes search functions that allow one to efficiently identify contract opportunities that best fit an organization's needs. Here's how to do it:

  1. Go to: www.fbo.gov
  2. Click on the link: "Start Researching Now," which will take you to the search page
  3. Once on the search page, scroll down to the section, "Classification Code:" and check the box "Q—Medical services"

While this very basic search returns results for all "active" postings in this classification code, additional parameters allow results to be much more narrowly defined to suit the reader's interests. While there are literally thousands of federal contract opportunities announced each day, it is relatively easy to isolate only those of greatest interest. In addition to performing a search based on user-defined parameters, the site also allows you to subscribe to a free e-mail notification service that automatically alerts you to any opportunity, or opportunities that meet the parameters you define.

The site recently underwent a major upgrade for the first time in a number of years. Like all interactive Web sites, some features are more intuitive and easier to use than others. While we find certain aspects of the upgrade somewhat confusing, you'll be amazed at the range, scope, and amount of health-related purchases by the federal government. For example, on August 20, a search of FBO returned 1,367 announcements about healthcare contracts issued since January 1.

In next month's article, we'll discuss the Federal Acquisition Regulations—the regulations that specify how the government formally acquires goods and services.


Scott A. Honiberg is president and Jeffrey E. Weinstein is senior counsel at Potomac Health Associates, Inc. They can be reached at honiberg@erols.com and JZWLaw@msn.com.

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