Bidders finalize competitive bids, hope for best

Saturday, December 19, 2009

BALTIMORE - Providers submitting bids for Round 1.2 of national competitive bidding last week were making to-do lists and checking them twice as today's deadline loomed.

"You want to double check, triple check and cross check so you don't have any errors," said Raul Lopez, director of operations for BayShore Dura Medical in Miami Lakes, Fla. "A stupid error kicked us out of one category last time."

Lopez was one of many bidders who took advantage of the new covered document review process, which allowed bidders to submit hard copy financial documents by Nov. 21 to determine if anything was missing. In Round 1, many providers complained their bids were unfairly disqualified because they lacked proper documentation.

The covered document review was one of many steps taken to prevent repeats of Round 1 problems.

CMS also took aim at preventing low-ball bids, a problem in Round 1. This time, providers had to submit manufacturer invoices to prove that they can furnish products at their submitted bid amounts. Providers last week were skeptical the requirement would eliminate low-ball bids.

"I don't think the system has the ability to do that," said Rick Perrotta, president of Network Medical Supply in Charlotte, N.C, who bid on power chairs, beds and walkers. "The amount you pay for the product is only a portion of what it costs with all the documentation and other stuff. My overall strategy was to bid as low as I can and still make a reasonable profit."

Provider Randy Freeman, president of Mediwell, in Fort Worth, Texas, bid on everything except diabetes and Group 2 power wheelchairs. He said he felt "good" about his bids, but he admitted it was a difficult process.

"Last time, the environment was a little better," he said. "The cuts we've taken this year and the oxygen cap made me think twice about some of my bids. It kept me up several nights."

Provider Carl Wallman was a little less sure about his bids on oxygen and RADs.

"I have no confidence that I am going to win a bid," said Wallman, president of Galaxy Medical in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "I'm close to the bid they gave out last time, but I have a sense that many companies will bid below $100 for a concentrator."

As 2009 draws to a close, Congress's healthcare reform plan is still a work in progress, but several HME provisions, including a proposed tax on medical device manufacturers, have many providers wishing they had a crystal ball.

"It's so hard," said Sheila Roberson, office manager at Criticare Home Health Services in Lawrence, Kan. "Do you do what you did last time; do you go lower? These could end up being the prices we have to live with."