EDITOR’S NOTE: This page is a guide to USA TODAY’s monthslong investigation of Utah-based Nomi Health, the no-bid contracts it received, and questions that officials raised over its testing accuracy and campaign contributions.
In early 2020, nearly no one outside of Silicon Slopes, a well-connected, influential business group in Salt Lake City, had ever heard of Nomi Health. Yet as the COVID-19 pandemic endangered the lives of Americans and threatened to crater the economy, the startup soon became a household name in Utah and several other Republican-controlled states as it oversaw massive testing programs.
USA TODAY has since March been investigating the company.
In 2019, Utah entrepreneur Mark Newman founded Nomi Health, which he said got its name from “No Middleman Healthcare.” He previously created an on-demand video interviewing service, and Nomi was part of four politically well-connected Utah firms that came together as the COVID-19 pandemic worsened in March 2020. Nomi essentially would act as a general contractor for the enterprise, setting up testing sites, hiring nurses and staff, and purchasing testing equipment.
Nomi would use COVID-19 tests supplied by Co-Diagnostics, a molecular testing company that had “no major customers” in 2019, according to the company’s annual report. Rounding out the Utah team were two software firms – Domo and Qualtrics – that provided electronic dashboards and test surveys.
In a month – March 31 to May 1, 2020 – Nomi had signed no-bid contracts in four states, and would later win additional state contracts through the traditional competitive procurement process. By the time Florida came on board a year later, taxpayers in those states would pay Nomi a collective $219 million, the records show.
Tennessee’s Health Department reported that Nomi Health’s testing results were “inconsistent,” and it spent nearly $6 million to pull out of its contract with the company about 45 days after signing on. Nomi officials said the money was paid for services provided. USA TODAY found that the Tennessee Public Health Laboratory had concluded the state had “no confidence” that the testing would “provide reliable and reproductive results.” Further, the state “reasonably determined” that the actions of Nomi and its subcontractors “have caused, or reasonably could cause, life, health, or safety to be jeopardized.” Nomi officials did not say whether they disclosed the report to the other states despite multiple attempts from USA TODAY to get them to answer the question. Nomi said its tests performed the way they are supposed to.
Shortly after Tennessee’s health department agreed to a $26.5 million no-bid contract with Nomi, the company sent personal protective equipment to the state. One health official had hoped to receive thousands of gown sleeves, masks and disinfectant for front-line medical workers. Instead, Nomi sent thousands of pink bovine insemination gloves, wipes labeled “for veterinary use” that didn’t kill the COVID-19 virus, and low-quality face masks, the official said. Tennessee ended its contract early and paid Nomi nearly $6 million. The state also said Nomi failed to provide suitable lab machinery and personal protective equipment “free from material defect.” Newman, Nomi’s chief executive, didn’t dispute that Tennessee received bovine gloves, saying they were a supplement to other, appropriate supplies.
After Republican governors gave lucrative, no-bid COVID-19 deals to Nomi, the company and a subcontractor, Domo, gave more than $1 million to GOP campaigns, with six-figure contributions going to the Republican Governors Association and five-figure contributions going to state GOP campaigns.Some of the largest contributions went to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, whose administration gave Nomi contracts that totaled $46.5 million from February to June 2021. As Nomi Health has expanded in Hawaii, the company, its chief executive and others associated with the Utah business have donated the maximum amount, or near the legal limit, to Democratic campaigns in the politically blue state.
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