CB: The lesser of two evils?

Sunday, August 31, 2003

HME News staff
WASHINGTON - If she had to choose between competitive bidding and a CPI freeze, Tyrrell Hunter thinks she might choose the former.

Why? If competitive bidding were to pass congressional muster, CMS would have a hard time including custom rehab in the project due to its technical nature, said Hunter, president of Majors Mobility in Topsham, Maine. If rehab were to be left out, competitive bidding might wreak havoc on other providers, but it wouldn’t affect rehab providers. A CPI freeze, however, would affect all of the HME industry.

“We’ve barely been able to survive the last freeze,” Hunter said. “You’ve got your health insurance costs going crazy, and our costs don’t freeze.”

But Sharon Hildebrandt, executive director of the AAHomecare’s Rehab and Assistive Technology Council (RATC), said the council strongly opposes competitive bidding and that choosing competitive bidding over a CPI freeze is short-sighted.

“We have no guarantee that they would exclude any kind of rehab equipment,” she said.

Jim Travis agreed. The president of Buffalo Wheelchair in Seneca, N.Y., said he’s heard rehab would be one of the first things put out to bid.

“They want to start with the highest priced items,” he said.

Hildebrandt said the CPI freeze would be less detrimental for the same reason that Hunter said it would be more so.

“A CPI freeze is applied across the board,” she said. “It doesn’t favor large suppliers. Everyone is going to be suffering similarly. It’s for the greater good.

“In competitive bidding, if you’re a supplier who doesn’t get a bid from CMS, that’s it,” she said. HME