Beneficiaries are quiet on bidding issues

Thursday, January 27, 2011

BALTIMORE - While reports of problems associated with Round 1 of competitive bidding are trickling in, one group has remained quiet: beneficiaries.

"We are not hearing anywhere near enough (from beneficiaries)," said Wayne Stanfield, executive director of NAIMES. "There are obviously problems, but not enough that would make Congress take notice."

Reported problems so far range from delayed hospital discharges to trouble finding the right equipment or provider, but most of these problems are being reported by providers themselves.

Too bad lawmakers are probably tired of hearing from HME providers, say industry stakeholders.

"I think the biggest impact has to come from the end user," said Rose Schafhauser, executive director of the Midwest Association for Medical Equipment Services. "We really need them to kind of knock lawmakers over the head and say, 'This really is an issue.'"

Industry stakeholders have set up toll-free complaint lines as well as websites, and, to make it easy to report problems.

AAHomecare has received a few dozen complaints from patients and caregivers.

"It's probably just the tip of the iceberg," said Michael Reinemer, vice president of communications and policy for the association. "Real problems won't necessarily emerge in the first couple of weeks."

Another issue: Providers are bending over backward to make the program work, giving beneficiaries fewer reasons to complain.

"We are hearing that there are many suppliers simply taking patients, whether they are getting paid or not," said Stanfield. "In many cases where a contract supplier won in one or two categories, they may take them in other categories as well."

Still, it's only been a month since the program officially kicked off, and as it continues to roll along, it is likely that increasing numbers of issues will crop up. For now, it's important for providers to continue to get the word out.

"We've been strategizing about how we can get the message out there," said Schafhauser. "We've got flyers that members hand out to referral sources and beneficiaries, and we are concentrating on making sure they get information out there that the calls aren't coming in yet."