Clock starts ticking on Round 2
BALTIMORE - If you're an HME provider in a Round 2 competitive bidding area, you're running out of excuses not to get ready for the program, industry stakeholders say.
CMS announced Nov. 30 a more detailed timeline for Round 2, including a registration that kicks off today (Dec. 5), and a bid window that opens Jan. 30 and closes March 30.
"Providers need to start getting everything ready--their 855S form, their credit report, their billing system," said Wayne Grau, vice president of contracting and business services for The MED Group. "If they start investing four or five hours a week on this thing, they're going to be ready. They can't stick their head in the sand and hope it goes away."
Until its Nov. 30 announcement, CMS had provided only a vague timeline for Round 2. It had stated, for example, that it would begin registration in "Fall 2011" and begin bidding in "Winter 2012."
Industry stakeholders recommend providers in Round 2 areas register for competitive bidding sooner rather than later, because the process can take some time. That goes for providers that are on the fence about participating in the program, too.
"Providers have to register to keep their options open," said Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare. "It's probably not a good idea for them to think they're not going to register or that they're not going to participate in one way or another."
While industry stakeholders are encouraging providers to be prepared, they're skeptical that CMS will be. Compared to Round 1, the agency will have to collect and review bids for 10 times as many areas in Round 2.
"Look at the dates for when the bid window closes and the single payment amounts are announced--they're leaving themselves about six months to evaluate contracts," said Walt Gorksi, vice president of government affairs for AAHomecare. "This is a cumbersome process, and when processes are cumbersome, that's when mistakes get made."
In addition to announcing a more detailed timeline, CMS announced an enhanced bidder education program for Round 2 that features updated fact sheets and a series of webcasts. That's all well and good, industry stakeholders say, but the problems they had with Round 1, including a lack of transparency surrounding financial requirements, remain outstanding.
That's why industry stakeholders continue to lobby lawmakers to support an alternative to competitive bidding. They're asking lawmakers to attach their market-pricing program (MPP) to one of the bills that must get passed before the end of the year, like the "doc fix" bill.
"Hopefully, CMS's announcement will re-energize the industry to educate our legislators on the reasons why MPP is so important to be put in place before the bid window opens," said Seth Johnson, vice president of government affairs for Pride Mobility Products.
For a complete timeline for Round 2, go here.
For new bidding instructions, go here.