Bidding train makes stop in Burlington

Saturday, May 31, 2008

MONTPELIER, Vt.--Home medical equipment providers met with Vermont Medicaid officials in April to try and discourage them from using competitive bidding to save money.

“Our goal was to explain the ill effects of competitive bidding, specifically in a state as small and rural as Vermont,” said Chris Henry, the Vermont chair for the New England Medical Equipment Dealers (NEMED) and CEO of The Medical Store in South Burlington, Vt.

Prior to the meetings, Vermont Medicaid had published a request for information (RFI) on competitive bidding. Several other states, through the New England States Consortium System Organization, are keeping close tabs on Vermont’s progress.

Providers in Vermont told Medicaid officials that competitive bidding would shrink an already small network of providers, significantly reducing patient access to equipment.

“There are other ways to drive down reimbursement,” he said.

One of those ways: Vermont Medicaid could implement a competitive bidding program for distributors of equipment and supplies. Providers would then buy equipment from winning distributors.

“That’s what we’ve seen other states do,” said Karyn Estrella, executive director of NEMED. “It’s really the best way to do it.”