“It’s very rare where a company that has only been existence for seven months with a very questionable track record can win a half-billion-dollar contract and be poised to get 50,000 clients,” said Vincent B. Orange Sr. (D-At Large).
But Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s administration and key council members are backing the firm, and the council is expected to vote Tuesday to approve the contract. The council has not raised issues with the other two proposed contractors, AmeriHealth Caritas and MedStar Family Choice.
The vote comes a day before the city’s largest Medicaid contractor, D.C. Chartered Health Plan, is set to stop doing business with the city, raising anxieties among health-care providers about a potentially messy transition for its more than 100,000 enrollees.
Thrive’s owners — Thomas M. Duncan II, a Detroit area businessman, and Dennis S. Ellis, a Los Angeles area lawyer — said in an interview Wednesday that they have been thoroughly vetted by city regulators, have amassed the necessary capital requirements and have an experienced team in place to make their business a success.
Duncan said he has explored starting a Medicaid managed-care business in the District for several years, using the proceeds from the 2007 sale of his previous health-care consulting business. He joined with Ellis, a prominent litigator and Howard Law School graduate, to capitalize the firm to the tune of nearly $2 million.
Thrive has engaged several prominent figures in District health care as executives or consultants, including Ivan C.A. Walks, a former city health director; Sharon Baskerville, a veteran community health advocate; and Edward Porcaro, a former high-ranking health-care finance official.
This year, a city procurement panel rated Thrive’s proposal the best of five it reviewed — outranking all others on technical merit, including AmeriHealth Caritas, which runs Medicaid plans in seven states, and UnitedHealthcare, the nation’s largest Medicaid managed-care provider.
Thrive’s top ranking surprised many in local health-care circles, and Orange in recent weeks has raised questions about the firm’s capitalization and the background of Duncan and several people listed as board members.
District insurance regulators, Ellis said, gave Thrive and its principals a thorough vetting, including criminal background checks, credit reports and an in-person meeting with official examiners.