California governor selects insurer for vaccine distribution
by jerry on March 21, 2021
Kaiser Health News published an article noting that the governor of California awarded a no-bid contract to Blue Shield and recounting a number of donations that the insurer has given to the governor's campaigns. While the contract is only $15 million (the insurer had $21 billion in revenue in 2019), the contract represents a marketing opportunity that could be valuable for the company.
With only a quick review, the optics do not look good: Blue Shield has a history of donating to the governor's campaigns (including some special interests). Vaccines are generally administered through providers, although one can imagine that having a strong retail presence (like drug stores) could be very helpful. Blue Shield, a health insurer, controls neither a provider network nor a strong retail presence. What the insurer does have is a history of financial contributions.
The optics would look much better if the contract had a bidding process. What the administrator would likely reasonably respond with is that the current circumstances call for speed and agility, not for perfection. While that might be true, it seems that the state could have put forth a bidding process with an accelerated review schedule.