Doing Business With The Exchange

Washington Health Benefit Exchange (Exchange) purchases products and services, as needed, to meet our mission and requirements.

Information for venders


The mission of Contracts is to promote strategic thinking in all procurement efforts; resulting in responsible stewardship of Exchange resources, customer-focused services, innovation, streamlining of business processes while maintaining compliance, with sustainability and diversity woven into everything we do.


Contracts vision is to set a standard of excellence by creating partnerships with customers, promoting strategic thinking, and implementing efficient contract management and procurement processes to facilitate the Exchange’s mission and create outstanding value for the organization.


Contracts strives to be a role model for our organization and peer organizations by demonstrating core values that are essential for building an exceptional procurement program in direct alignment with the following Exchange’s values:

We promote equity, inclusion, and diversity by engaging local suppliers, and utilizing diverse and disadvantaged suppliers where possible.

We define and deliver operational excellence through integrity and transparency, ethical behavior, compliance with stated practices and policies, customer care, and communication of our goals and results.

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

The 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 public-private organization and recipient of federal funds, the Exchange 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 the Exchange 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: 

Only the Exchange’s Chief Executive Officer, or designee, has the authority to commit the Exchange to any purchase, contract, or agreement.

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.

View active vendor procuments and bid opportunities.

View past Exchange procurements.

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 from DES.

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

Use the GSA per diem rates look-up tool.

Pre-approval requests must detail costs that Vendor may incur for the expense categories are:
  • Lodging
    • Federal GSA nightly rate (w/out tax) x # of nights = Total cost
  • M&IE
    • Federal GSA daily rate x # of days per guidelines table for travel below = Total cost
  • Airfare
    • 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
Airline Expense:

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. 

Lodging Expense:

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.

Use the GSA per diem rates look-up tool.

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.

Use the GSA per diem rates look-up tool.

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.

Per diem guidelines for travel

A minimum of 11 hours of travel must be incurred before per diem can be requested.

  • Left official residence or duty station after 8:30 a.m. – no breakfast
  • Left official residence or duty station after 11:30 a.m. – no lunch
  • Left official residence or duty station after 5:30 p.m. – no dinner
  • Returned to official residence or duty station before 8:30 a.m. – no breakfast, lunch or dinner
  • Returned to official residence or duty station before 11:30 a.m. – no lunch or dinner
  • Returned to official residence or duty station before 5:30 p.m. – no dinner

  • Amendment – Any change that is made to an existing Contract or Work Order.
  • Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) – The CMS, a federal agency within the United States Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Change Order – A no-cost change to a Contract that adds, deletes, or changes work from the original statement of work.
  • Consultant – A specific employee or Subcontractor that has been identified as a proposed member of the project team providing services under a Contract.
  • Contract – Any type of legally binding agreement between WAHBE and a Vendor or other party, including but not limited to:
    • Purchase Orders (PO)
    • HBE Contracts (HBE)
    • Interagency Agreements (IAA)
    • Master License Agreements (MLA)
    • Memorandums of Understanding (MOU)
    • Service Level Agreements (SLA)
    • Lease/Rental Agreements
    • Non-Disclosure and Confidentiality Agreements (NDA)
    • Change Orders and Amendments
    • Work Orders
    • Trading Partner (Insurance Carrier) Agreements
    • Navigator, Broker, or Certified Application Counselor (CAC) Agreements
  • Contractor – A Vendor who has executed a formal Contract with the Exchange.
  • Contract Manager – A specific Purchaser assigned to manage and monitor the delivery and/or performance of goods and services after Contract award.
  • Contract Owner – A specific Executive Leadership Team member or Department Director responsible for executing and overseeing Contracts awarded for their department.
  • End User License Agreement (EULA) – A legal Contract entered into between a software developer or Vendor and the user of the software, often where the software has been purchased by the user from an intermediary such as a reseller.
  • Formal Procurement – A documented, formal bidding process providing an equal and open opportunity to qualified bidders; ending in a selection based on predetermined criteria.
  • General Services Administration (GSA) – An independent agency of the United States government established to help manage and support the basic functioning of government agencies.
  • 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).
  • Informal Procurement – Relatively simple and informal method used to secure goods and services.
  • Interagency Agreement (IAA) – An agreement generally between government agencies and departments that defines cooperative work between them.
  • Invitation for Bids (IFB) – A formal procurement method used to solicit competitive bid responses when price is the basis for award.
  • Master License Agreement – Specifies most of the terms that will govern future software or other transactions. It includes generic terms such as payment, product warranties, intellectual property ownership, dispute resolution, and liabilities and often are accompanied by a "Statement of Work" or “End User Licensing Agreement”.
  • Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) – A MOU describes the terms of an agreement without being legally binding or involving the transfer of finances.
  • Office of Minority and Women’s Business Enterprises (OMWBE) – The OMWBE leads the Statewide M/WBE program as the sole agency that certifies minority- and women-owned business enterprises to participate in public contracting and procurement.
  • Purchase Card (P-Card) – A type of company charge card used for smaller purchases.
  • 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.
  • Quote – A formal commitment from a Vendor to provide a particular good or service for a set price.
  • Requestor – Any WAHBE employee that requests goods and services.
  • 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 Quotations (RFQ) – An informal procurement method used to solicit bid responses when price is the basis for award.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Scope of Work – The part of a Procurement that captures and defines the general work activities, deliverables, and timeline being requested by WAHBE.
  • Service Level Agreement (SLA) – An agreement between WAHBE and a Contractor that defines the services standards and quality levels the Contractor is obligated to meet.
  • Sole Source – A non-competitive method of procurement used when only one supplier possesses the unique ability or capability to meet the particular requirements of the entity or because only one supplier is practicably available.
  • 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.
  • Work Order – A document which authorizes a Contractor to perform work under an existing Contract. It is usually a task or job for a specific resource to perform (e.g. IT technical staffing).

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. Use the GSA look-up tool to calcuate your per diem rate. 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.

Contact Us

Vendors with contracts and procurement-related questions, email [email protected].

Vendors inquiring about payment, invoice status, travel expense process, email [email protected].