Bidding blunders?

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

WASHINGTON - In the week after providers learned whether they had won contracts with CMS, Round 1 bidders swamped the phone lines of industry associations in March and April with complaints of improperly disqualified bids.
And on March 26, AAHomecare urged CMS to push back the deadlines for accepting contracts (April 3) and for kicking off the national competitive program (July 1).
"We want to ensure that suppliers are treated fairly, but that the education window isn't squeezed to such an extent that suppliers and beneficiaries won't be able to react to the changes," said Walt Gorski, AAHomecare's vice president of government affairs. "We also want to ensure the integrity of the program by ensuring that CMS has calculated allowables appropriately."
At press time in early April, the association had at least 150 examples of unfairly disqualified bids in which they could verify that providers had supplied the necessary documentation. The most common error codes were:
4 BSE-4: Bidder did not submit the applicable financial documentation.
4 BSE-3: Bidder did not meet applicable quality standards/was not accredited by a CMS-approved accreditation organization.
4 CO-1: Bidder did not submit a single bid for commonly-owned or controlled suppliers.
CMS did not respond to a request by HME News that it address industry concerns that hundreds of bidders were improperly disqualified.
The agency disqualified most providers for allegedly not including the necessary financial documentation with their bids, say industry leaders. The VGM Group has fielded a couple of hundred calls from members whose bids were disqualified.
"It's certainly unbelievable that that many companies would have made that type of an error on the most important thing in their business in the last 15 years," said Kelly Wolf, VGM's vice president of key accounts. "The companies I've talked with hired outside firms to review documentation requirements before the bids were sent in."
Rob Brant, CEO of City Medical Services in Miami Beach, Fla., said he did just that, yet the CBIC disqualified his bid.
"Our accountant provided us with (the financial documents) and then we went through a lawyer to certify our bid," he said.
Jack Marquez, owner of Cobra Medical Equipment in Miami, bid as part of a network that was disqualified. "All my papers were there," he said. "The lawyers checked it."
Marquez and Brant are spearheading efforts in Florida to unite disqualified providers and have reached out to state associations across the country.
In March and April, various senators and representatives sent CMS letters echoing the industry's concerns with bidders who may have been disqualified unfairly; the short 10-day window for signing and returning contracts; and the potential impact on small providers.
So far, complaints are being handled by the CBIC on a case-by-case basis, said Seth Johnson, vice president of government affairs for Pride Mobility.
"Some providers have been told that their request will be responded to in 30 days, but it seems like you'd like to wrap that up before they announce the winners," he said. HME