CMS closes in on competitive bidding

Sunday, December 14, 2008

WASHINGTON - Industry stakeholders expect CMS to publish an interim final rule that outlines its plans for national competitive bidding by Dec. 19.

Publishing the rule in the Federal Register by that date allows CMS to enact it before a new administration takes office.

"I'm not surprised at all that they're going to make another run at seeing competitive bidding move forward sooner rather than later," said Seth Johnson, vice president of government affairs for Pride Mobility Products. "This just shows, again, the Bush administration's strong support for the program."

CMS announced last week that the rule was in final clearance with the Office of Management and Budget.

Industry stakeholders don't hold out much hope that the rule will make significant changes to the program. Just read the title of the rule, they say: "Limited Changes to the Competitive Acquisition of Durable Medical Equipment, Prosthetics, Orthotics and Supplies."

"From our perspective, this rule will violate the intent of Congress," said Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare. "If you're going to reissue a rule with no changes, then what's the point?"

In July, Congress ordered CMS to delay competitive bidding and make several improvements to the program, including requiring the agency to allow providers to submit additional bidding paperwork, if necessary.

In its rush to publish the rule, industry stakeholders pointed out, CMS hasn't even assembled a new Payment Advisory Oversight Committee (PAOC) for competitive bidding. Ideally, they say, the agency would issue a proposed rule, meet with the PAOC and other interested parties, solicit comments and then issue a final rule.

But even if CMS publishes the rule by Dec. 19 and implements it within the allowed 30 days doesn't mean it will stick, industry stakeholders say.

"There's nothing that precludes the incoming administration from not taking action on the rule," Johnson said. "Or, for that matter, making changes to the rule or pulling it."