Change banner from repeal to reform

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Despite years of effort by the industry to derail competitive bidding, the flawed program has been implemented in the first nine markets. And implementation of the program will begin in an additional 91 markets in the next few months.

Some in the HME industry predict the program will fail in the first nine markets. Unfortunately, I believe those people are wrong.

No doubt, beneficiaries will be impacted by the program. Some will be impacted more than others.

But collectively the contracted suppliers will do just enough to allow CMS to claim success. Let’s not kid ourselves: Did we collectively delight every beneficiary every time before competitive bidding? Why do three of the 30 Supplier Standards address beneficiary complaint resolution (13, 19 and 20)?

As much as it pains me, it is time for the industry to drop the banner of “repeal” competitive bidding and pick up the banner of “reform.”

Changing banners is not the same as waving the white flag.

The leaders at AAHomecare, VGM, Invacare and other industry organizations and manufacturers need to hear that the industry is behind reform so they can dedicate their resources to reforming the competitive bidding program in an open and forthright manner. The leaders of those organizations cannot and will not take action until they are confident their membership and customers will not abandon them if they push for reform.

Economist Peter Cramton, Ph.D., is a credible and independent voice about the flaws in the competitive bidding program. He is also a leading expert in auction design.

Dr. Cramton has developed the framework of an auction design that addresses many of the flaws in the current program. His auction design will also achieve significant cost savings for the Medicare program.

Dr. Cramton has invited the industry and CMS to talk with him or other auction experts to finalize an auction design. Efficient suppliers will prosper under a well designed auction system.

Repeal has fallen on deaf ears for years at CMS and Congress. Isn’t it time the entire industry throws its weight behind a program like Dr. Cramton’s that will result in a sustainable program for beneficiaries, suppliers and CMS?

Good business is making change before change gets crammed down your throat.

The leaders at your associations and manufacturers need to hear that you support reform before competitive bidding is crammed down the throats of beneficiaries and suppliers in the next 91 markets. hme

Scott Lloyd is co-founder and president of Extrakare in Norcross, Ga.