The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has awarded multiyear, open-ended PR contracts to five agencies, following an eight-month RFP process.

Nine firms pitched for the lucrative pacts.

Fleishman-Hillard was chosen to join incumbents Ketchum, Ogilvy PR Worldwide, Porter Novelli and Weber Shandwick as the large division of the US Dept. of Health and Human Servicesí go-to firms for PR work for up to seven years. The Washington, D.C., offices of each firm will handle assignments for the Maryland-based CMS.

The federal agency, known as CMS, runs programs affecting 102M Americans and will be expanded and revamped under the Obama administration's healthcare overhaul. Its $486B 2011 budget is requested to rise to nearly $507B for 2012.

CMS issued an RFP in December to review its PR roster, which previously included the four firms.

The process to select a group of firms from which to bid out or assign projects is known as IDIQ, or indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity. The work is expected to include a range of national, local and regional campaigns incorporating PR, social media, advertising/PSAs and other outreach.

F-H, Ketchum and PN are part of Omnicom, while Ogilvy is a unit of WPP and WS is owned by Interpublic.

The federal agency last reviewed the accounts in 2006.