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Health tech / Technology

Downtown’s Fearless plans to upgrade the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services via a $67M contract

The contract, which comes from the Woodlawn-based Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, will support a project to improve state governments and users' experience with Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program.

Fearless' CEO Delali Dzirasa talking to a Hutch cohort. (Courtesy photo)
Update: This article has been updated since its initial publication to incorporate new comments from Nichole Weems, Fearless' health and sciences portfolio director. (9/27/22, 1:20 p.m.) 

Downtown Baltimore software firm Fearless just landed a $67 million, four-year contract with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

According to Fearless, the deal is one of its largest digital transformation efforts since its founding. Through the contract, Fearless will be supporting recipients of both Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP, which includes qualifying families, children, pregnant women, people with disabilities, seniors and more). Fearless said in a statement that the revamp of the Medicaid and children’s programs’ portal — known as MACPRO — will include human-centered design, product thinking and DevOps.

Fearless added that it will be working with Groundswell, IBM, A1M Solutions and eSimplicity to execute the contract, which will support 66 jobs. Theta and Lucky Rabbit, portfolio companies of Fearless’ civic tech incubator Hutch, will be supporting the company, as well.

Nichole Weems, the director of the company’s health and sciences portfolio, described the project as “a natural evolution of Fearless.”

“As we are growing, we are taking on more work at the enterprise level, instead of individual projects,” Weems told via email. “We know that true long-lasting digital transformation adoption happens at the enterprise, not project level. Working with our partners, including Hutch companies, we are here to support CMS leadership and teams as we all work to deliver better services and experiences to the American public.”

Weems also noted in a prior statement that the project has particular relevance to women and children’s health, given Medicaid and CHIP’s programmatic foci: “The federal funding states access through these programs allows many women and children to get the care they need to be healthy and safe. This is more important than ever right now, during a global pandemic.”

Through the project, the company will be helping to improve access to healthcare by streamlining the systems, products and processes involved in MACPRO. The hope is that operations like Medicaid and CHIP will be more responsive — currently, both programs function at the state level but are funded by both state and federal governments.

But as state governments change and develop their own priorities, Fearless said that agencies need to be able to adjust and change their policies to meet new needs. At present, states need to submit plan amendments to CMS for review and approval before changes can be made. MACPRO allows states to submit documents and reports, including the plan amendments. Fearless wants to consolidate the states’ legacy systems to enable more of a collaborative process with CMS — whose HQ sits in Woodlawn, Baltimore county — and increase consistency and transparency. In addition to creating a better MACPRO experience, the company also hopes the process will mean more data-driven decision-making.

“We want to take this from a compliance-focused process to a data-driven one,” Weems continued. “From a state perspective, we’re looking to improve transparency and response time. And on the federal side, we want to provide CMS with the data needed to make better, faster funding decisions. After we’ve made these processes more automated and efficient, we’ll also explore using predictive analytics to better inform decisions around care.”

This isn’t the first time Fearless has been awarded a large contract in the federal government ecosystem. In 2021, the company was awarded a contract from the General Services Administration worth up to $120 million and up to five years in length.

Alongside its partners in the project, Fearless is hoping to improve government-supported healthcare as a whole.

“MACPRO is going to be a real collective effort,” Weems said in the statement. “Collaboration is key to Fearless’ working style, and it will be more important than ever as we move forward with this contract. Our team has already started to demonstrate a one-team approach, and all our partners are rallying around the work. Together, we’ll work to achieve our goals of improved services, reduced costs and, ultimately, better care for beneficiaries.”

Going forward, Weems told that the company will continue working on healthcare-related technology projects. She highlighted a specific upcoming collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Pandemic-Ready Interoperability Modernization Effort, through which the CDC partners with the U.S. Digital Service to bolster state and local health departments’ IT and data collection systems. Fearless will also work on the two agencies’ joint Data Modernization Initiative, which is a broader project to modernize the CDC’s data and tech infrastructure.

“Similar to CMS, we are currently working with the CDC to ensure healthcare data, including COVID data, is easily shared among the CDC and various account care organizations via ReportStream,” she said. 

Companies: Fearless

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