CMS extends competitive bidding, accreditation deadlines

Sunday, July 29, 2007

WASHINGTON - Rumors rumbled through the industry last week that CMS would extend the bidding deadline for the first round of national competitive bidding, and the industry got that and more Friday afternoon.

CMS announced that it would extend the deadline for submitting bids to 9 p.m. EST on Sept. 25, 2007. The deadline had been July 27, 2007 (and before that, July 20 and July 13). CMS also extended the deadline for accreditation to Oct. 31, 2007 from Aug. 31, 2007.

Additionally, CMS announced it would kick off competitive bidding on July 1, 2008 instead of April 1, 2008. Contracts for diabetes supplies will extend to March 31, 2010, and for all other product categories to June 30, 2011.

"This gives CMS the time to really address some of the outstanding issues that are truly wrong with this program," said Rose Schafhauser, executive director of the Midwest Association for Medical Equipment Services (MAMES). "Even providers who have already submitted their bids are anxious. Some of them haven't received confirmations that their bids have been accepted."

MAMES first broke the news of the possible bidding extension on Thursday, when it sent out an e-mail detailing the role of Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., in the confirmation hearing of CMS Administrator Kerry Weems. During the hearing last week, Roberts read testimony from industry stakeholders that explained provider difficulties and concerns.

Also last week, other industry groups, including The VGM Group, received word from the staffs of two of the senators on the Finance Committee that CMS would extend the bidding deadline.

"It'll be interesting to see whether they'll award bids in December," said John Gallagher, vice president of government relations for VGM. "They're going to need more time to verify financials and educate beneficiaries and clinicians."

While AAHomecare's Walt Gorksi called the extensions "a very positive development," he said there's still work to do.

"There's no certainty that the problems encountered by suppliers will be addressed or can be addressed with a system that may have problems inherent with it," said Gorski, vice president of government affairs. "What suppliers need to do is continue working toward the enactment of competitive bidding legislation that would address many of the issues raised by this bidding process."

At the same time, industry stakeholders and providers should give themselves a pat on the back, Gorski said.

"This shows that a concerted effort by the HME community is able to make a difference," he said.