Accreditation: By waiting, providers are playing 'Russian roulette'

Sunday, January 28, 2007

WASHINGTON - One month after CMS announced that providers who plan to participate in the first round of national competitive bidding must be accredited by early spring, accreditors were still waiting for the "floodgates" to open.

Several accreditors reported in late January that the number of applications they've received and the number of manuals they've sold has increased, but "it's not the volume we were expecting," said Tom Cesar, president and CEO of ACHC.

"We thought they would be more serious about beating the rush," he said.

In the first three weeks of January, ACHC sold about 60 manuals. While that's "healthy activity, I would have thought (we'd sell) 150," Cesar said. JCAHO reported a similar trend.

"January is coming in very nicely, but in terms of a spike, we haven't seen one," said Maryanne Popovich, executive director of the organization's homecare accreditation program.

CMS plans to kick off NCB in 10 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) in October. The agency recently added Orlando to a list of 19 cities where the program may take place (See the February issue of HME News).

Accreditors agree that some providers, even those in the top 20 MSAs, probably won't make the leap toward accreditation until CMS releases information on where NCB will take place and the products it will put out to bid. That could happen as early as the end of this month.

"They're not going to budge before CMS releases that information," said Sandra Canally, president of The Compliance Team. "Then, Lord help us all, the floodgates are going to open."

Accreditors argue there's enough information out there for providers to take action.

"We've got the quality standards; the recognized accreditors; the 20 cities, 10 of which will be chosen for the first round," Popovich said. "There's a lot of stuff we know."

By waiting, providers are playing "Russian roulette," Cesar said.