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Humana Wins Another Round in Tricare Dispute

The U.S. Government Accountability Office has ruled against Minnesota-based UnitedHealth in a protest over the awarding of the lucrative Tricare military contract.Humana previously held the contract, which allows the company to provide insurance and benefits to military members, retirees and their families in the south. Humana lost a renewal bid to UnitedHealth in 2009, but appealed the decision. In 2010, the GAO ruled that Humana's bid had not been properly considered and, after another review, changed its decision. UnitedHealth then appealed that decision on the grounds that Humana's proposed reimbursements to doctors were too low. On Tuesday afternoon, the GOA rejected the protest. The final decision is up to the Department of Defense.UnitedHealth could take the issue to court, but the Star Tribune reports that no decision has been made.In a statement late Tuesday afternoon, the company left that option open.

"We intend to pursue all available options, including legal action, to ensure any Tricare south contract award by the Department of Defense provides the best access to quality health care for military members and their families," the company said.

However, a lawsuit may become a moot point if UnitedHealth wins the Tricare western region contract. The Minnetonka-based company did not win that $15 billion contract, but it convinced the Department of Defense that technical mistakes in the review process were significant. A new solicitation is now underway, pitting UnitedHealth against the existing contract holder, TriWest Healthcare Alliance Corp.

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