Doing Business With The Exchange
Washington Health Benefit Exchange (Exchange) purchases products and services, as needed, to meet our mission and requirements. Information for Vendors interested in doing business with the Exchange is provided below.
Although not a comprehensive list, most Exchange purchases fall into one of the following categories:
- Information Technology and Professional Services (ITPS)
- Customer Outreach and Assistance Services
- Presiding Officer (Appeals) Services
- Software and Subscriptions
- Consulting Services (IT and non-IT)
- HPF System Maintenance, Development, and Operations Services
- Call Center Services
- Printing and Mailing Services
- Auditing Services
- Marketing Services
- Customer Decision Support Tools
- Facilities Services
The Exchange is looking for Vendors and service providers that:
- Do their research to fully understand how their products and services can directly benefit the Exchange and the solutions we offer our customers
- Share our commitment to performance excellence
- Are financially healthy and who are continuously focused on improving affordability and efficiency through Lean operations
- Will share their knowledge for how the Exchange can better manage our businesses and deliver best value solutions for the Exchange and our customers
- Conduct their operations in a professional and respectful manner and share our commitment to ethical business practices
- Look toward the future with us, applying what we learn together as we continue to invest in technologies that will help us deliver the critical products and services that our customers demand
Washington Health Benefit Exchange’s authority for procurement and contracting is provided in Chapter 43.71 RCW. As a self-sustaining public-private partnership, separate and distinct from the State of Washington, the Exchange is not subject to the purchasing regulations governed under Chapter 39.26 RCW.
As a quasi-governmental organization and recipient of federal funds, WAHBE purchases involving federal funds are made in accordance with applicable federal procurement standards and are subject to federal requirements. Vendors who are suspended or debarred from doing business with the U.S. Federal Government are not eligible to contract with the Exchange.
Exchange contracting and procurement policies govern purchases to ensure materials and services are obtained on time, at the best price and from the best Responsive and Responsible Vendors available. All procurement actions are based on conformance with applicable laws, regulations and contractual obligations. All Vendors and their representatives are treated fairly and impartially.
Typical formal bid processes used by WAHBE include Request for Proposal (RFP) and Request for Qualifications and Quotations (RFQQ). The Exchange occasionally releases a Request for Information (RFI) to solicit interest and feedback from Vendors prior to the release of an RFP or RFQQ
The Exchange provides specific instructions and bid submittal requirements that must be followed. To be considered Responsive, Vendors must comply with all the requirements listed within the solicitation document. Typical requirements include, but are not limited to:
- Submitting bids on or before the due date and time (always local/Pacific Time)
- Submitting all required bid materials (forms, cost sheets, and other documents)
- Following the specified response format and using specified forms or templates
- Signing forms and documents, where required
Vendors are strictly prohibited from contacting Exchange Board members or employees (other than the designated procurement coordinator) regarding an active or upcoming procurement. Doing so may result in Vendor disqualification from the solicitation process.
Vendors must be willing and able to comply with the Exchange’s contractual terms and conditions. Proposed agreements are project-specific and provided with each bid opportunity for Vendor review. Sample/generic Exchange agreements are provided below:
Purchase Order (for short term/small dollar purchases)
Sample Contract (for long term/larger purchases)
Only the Exchange’s Chief Executive Officer, or designee, has the authority to commit the Exchange to any purchase, contract, or agreement. All binding commitments must be in writing and signed by an authorized representative of both parties.
The Exchange posts all formal procurements on Washington Electronic Business Solutions (WEBS) – a free online vendor registration system operated by the Washington State Department of Enterprise Services. Vendors must register to access the Exchange’s bid documents and any addenda.
- WEBS for Vendors: https://pr-webs-vendor.des.wa.gov/
- Registration Information: https://www.des.wa.gov/services/contracting-purchasing/doing-business-state/webs-registration-search-tips
- Vendor FAQs: https://www.des.wa.gov/services/contracting-purchasing/doing-business-state/webs-vendor-faq
- Customer Service: firstname.lastname@example.org, (360) 902-7400
Improving economic opportunities for diverse business enterprises – including small, minority-, women’s- and veteran-owned businesses – is a priority for the Exchange. The Exchange encourages the use of products and services that reflect our community and are from, or include, minority-, women-, and veteran-owned businesses and small, locally owned businesses.
Resources to register as, or connect with, diverse businesses enterprises are available at: https://des.wa.gov/services/contracting-purchasing/doing-business-state/bid-opportunities/business-diversity.
In general, the Exchange requires Vendors to include all expenses, including any applicable travel costs for Exchange contractual business, as part of their bid price.
Under special circumstances, Vendor may receive reimbursement for travel expenses as authorized in advance by the Exchange Contract Manager as reimbursable as specified in the Statement of Work. Travel expenses must be pre-approved by the Exchange Contract Manager in order to be reimbursed. Reimbursement to Vendors will not exceed the current federal General Services Administration (GSA) travel rates and requirements.
Authorized Vendor Travel Expenses
GSA per diem rates look-up tool: https://www.gsa.gov/travel/plan-book/per-diem-rates/per-diem-rates-lookup
Pre-approval requests must detail costs that Vendor may incur for the expense categories listed below:
- Federal GSA nightly rate (w/out tax) x # of nights = Total cost
- Federal GSA daily rate x # of days per guidelines table for travel below = Total cost
- Economy fare total cost
- Rental Car
- Total cost
- Ground Transportation
- Total cost
Expenses Prohibited from Reimbursement:
Unless specifically authorized by the Exchange’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO), the Exchange will not reimburse Vendor expenses other than those listed in the Authorized Vendor Travel Expenses table above. Under no circumstances will travel expenses that are considered as personal and not essential to the transaction of official Exchange business be reimbursed. Such non-reimbursable expenses include, but are not limited to:
- Alcoholic beverage expenses
- Valet services, defined as the hiring of a personal attendant who takes care of the individual’s clothes, or helps the individual in dressing, etc. The prohibition against valet services for general travelers is not to be considered as a prohibition against the use of a personal care attendant required by a disabled person
- Entertainment expenses, radio or television rental and other items of a similar nature
- Costs of personal trip insurance (such as personal accident insurance, personal effects insurance, and extended liability insurance), and medical and hospital services
- Tips and Gratuities
- Towing or costs related to rental car damage
- Fines for parking tickets, citations or infractions received while operating a vehicle on Exchange business
Air travel must be booked in accordance with the Fly America Act, which requires the use of a “U.S. flag air carrier”. Exceptions to the requirement to use a U.S. flag carrier include if a U.S. flag carrier either does not fly to or from the destination or there are no flights available from a U.S. carrier on the required dates of travel. Such exceptions need to be documented and approved in advance by the Exchange Contract Manager.
Flights will be limited to economy/coach fare, utilizing the most direct, economical route from the Vendor’s location of origin. Vendors may upgrade their travel class by paying the incremental cost with their own funds.
Ground Transportation Expense:
For any pre-approved ground transportation expenses, Vendor must provide a receipt to substantiate Vendor’s claimed ground transportation expenses costing $30.00 or more (individually or in aggregate).
A rental car may be used at the destination location where other means of transportation are not practical, economical or available, or in an emergency. An economy class vehicle should be rented by the Vendor; however, if the Vendor provides the Exchange Contract Manager with justification why economy class is not feasible (e.g. number of people travelling or amount of equipment), the Exchange Contract Manager may authorize an upgraded class of vehicle.
Using the GSA per diem look-up tool, determine the lodging rate for the month and year Vendor will be traveling and the city and state Vendor will be traveling to. This lodging rate is the maximum booking rate that is reimbursable by the Exchange (Exchange will reimburse the Vendor for the additional lodging taxes and fees, but not for lodging services such as dry cleaning, entertainment, or business services). If the Vendor exceeds the GSA lodging rate, the Vendor is responsible for the cost difference.
To obtain reimbursement for lodging expenses, Vendor is required to provide a lodging receipt to substantiate costs.
For those Vendors whose office or residence is in the Puget Sound area, the 50 Mile Rule will be in effect.
The 50 Mile Rule – reimbursement for lodging expenses will only be authorized when the travel destination is located more than 50 miles (most direct route) from the closer of either the traveler’s official residence or official work station.
GSA per diem rates look-up tool: https://www.gsa.gov/travel/plan-book/per-diem-rates
Meals & Incidentals (M&IE) Expense:
Using the GSA per diem look-up tool, determine the per diem rate for the month and year Vendor will be traveling and the city and state Vendor will be traveling to. The per diem rate is the maximum daily M&IE amount that the Exchange will reimburse the Vendor for. M&IE per diem will be paid based on departure and return times as noted in the table below. The Vendor’s departure and return times must be indicated on the Vendor’s invoice for the Exchange to substantiate expenses.
Vendor will not claim per diem for M&IE provided at no charge to Vendor. Continental breakfasts and light refreshments are not considered meals; therefore, Vendor can still claim per diem for that meal period.
GSA per diem rates look-up tool: https://www.gsa.gov/travel/plan-book/per-diem-rates
For non-overnight travel:
Eleven Hour Rule – Vendor may be paid for M&IE expenses when the Vendor has been in travel status for at least eleven hours.
- Consultant – A specific employee or Subcontractor that has been identified as a proposed member of the project team providing services under a Contract.
- Contract – A formal and legally binding agreement between two parties.
- Contractor – A Vendor who has executed a formal Contract with the Exchange.
- Formal Procurement – A documented, formal bidding process providing an equal and open opportunity to qualified bidders; ending in a selection based on predetermined criteria.
- GSA – U.S. General Services Administration.
- Washington Healthplanfinder (HPF) – The Exchange’s online marketplace for individuals, families, and small businesses to find, compare, and enroll in Qualified Health and Dental Plans, as well as enroll in Washington Apple Health (Medicaid).
- Purchase Order – A legally binding document between a supplier and a buyer indicating the types, quantities, and agreed prices for products or services to be provided.
- Revised Code of Washington (RCW) – The compilation of all permanent laws now in force. It is a collection of Session Laws (enacted by the Legislature, and signed by the Governor, or enacted via the initiative process), arranged by topic, with amendments added and repealed laws removed. It does not include temporary laws such as appropriations acts.
- Request for Information (RFI) – A common business process used to collect written information about the capabilities of various suppliers. Normally it follows a format that can be used for comparative purposes. A RFI does not result in a Contract award.
- Request for Proposal (RFP) – A business document that announces and provides details about a project, as well as solicits proposed approaches and pricing from Vendors to help complete the project.
- Request for Qualifications and Quotations (RFQQ) – A business document that announces and provides fixed project requirements, as well as solicits qualifications and pricing from Vendors to help complete the project.
- Responsible – The ability, capacity, and skill to perform the work or provide the service required, including, but not limited to the character, integrity, reputation, judgment, experience, and efficiency of the Vendor.
- Responsive – A response to a solicitation that meets all material terms of the document.
- Solicitation – A business document that announces and provides details about a project, as well as solicits responses using an RFP, RFQQ, or another format.
- Statement of Work – The part of a Contract that captures and defines the specific work activities, deliverables, and timeline a Vendor must execute in performance of specified work for a client.
- Vendor – A person, firm, or company proposing to do work on behalf of the Exchange.
Q: Does the Exchange use state (DES) Contracts for purchasing?
A: Yes, as a quasi-governmental organization, the Exchange is authorized to use DES and other governmental cooperative purchasing Contracts for purchasing. However, the Exchange is not required to use DES Contracts and can use other means to purchase a product or service as the Exchange deems necessary.
Q: Does the Exchange use federal (GSA) Contracts for purchasing?
A: No. At this time, the Exchange is not authorized to purchase from GSA Contracts.
Q: Does the Exchange reimburse Vendors for travel?
A: In general, the Exchange requires Vendors to include any applicable travel costs, for Exchange contractual business, as part of their bid price. If the Exchange requests travel as part of a change-order or amendment, the Exchange will reimburse Vendors in accordance with federal GSA travel rates and requirements. Federal GSA per diem rates look-up tool: https://www.gsa.gov/travel/plan-book/per-diem-rates/per-diem-rates-lookup. See Vendor Travel & Expenses section for more information.
Q: How does the Exchange select Vendors?
A: Each procurement includes criteria and requirements specific to the goods or services needed. However, in general, Vendors who are selected for Exchange projects typically:
- Provide bids and proposals that are clear, concise, and address Exchange-specific issues or needs
- Display a clear understanding of the project to be completed, including both Exchange and Vendor responsibilities
- Display prior successful performance in projects of similar scope and size
- Practice continuous improvement and utilize best practices
- Carefully review the sample contract, purchase order, or other agreement included with the bid request and list any exceptions or alternate language at the time of submittal.
Vendors with contracts and procurement-related questions: email@example.com
Vendors inquiring about payment, invoice status, travel expense process: firstname.lastname@example.org