CMS names contract winners, delays accreditation deadline

Sunday, May 18, 2008

BALTIMORE - About 325 providers signed contracts with CMS to provide competitively bid items in the first 10 competitive bidding areas (CBAs), CMS officials said during a press conference today. Half of those providers are small providers.

For a list of contract providers by CBA, go to

CMS officials said they were "confident" that the contracted providers have enough capacity to meet the needs of beneficiaries in each of the CBAs. As proof, they offered two examples:

* In the Dallas-Fort Worth CBA, Medicare, on average, pays for 770 walkers a month. With 20 contracted suppliers in the CBA, each would sell an average of 38 walkers per month. * In the Pittsburgh CBA, Medicare pays monthly rentals for about 1,300 beds. That averages out to 89 beds for each of the area's 15 contract winners.

During the press conference, CMS also announced that it has pushed back the accreditation deadline for providers who want to participate in Round 2 of competitive bidding.

* Suppliers must be accredited or have applied for accreditation by July 21, 2008 (from May 14, 2008), to submit a bid for the second round of competitive bidding. * Suppliers must be accredited by Jan. 14, 2009 (from Oct. 31, 2008), to be awarded a contract for the second round of competitive bidding.

"We haven't seen the rate of applications that we need to see," said a CMS official. "We need to make sure that the suppliers in those areas understand they need to have applied to be eligible for the second round (of bidding)."

CMS officials said they do not anticipate any other program delays. They addressed several key concerns during a question and answer period, including:

* Caller: "Do you have a number of firms that are going to offer services in parts of the country where they are not currently located? And will you monitor subcontractors?" CMS: "Over 90% of suppliers are in the areas in which they bid," an official said. "That's a pretty big number. Previous to competitive bidding, you could have a firm doing business in another part of the country."

CMS officials also addressed concerns that inexperienced providers may have won contracts for oxygen and power wheelchairs. Previously, all a person needed was a provider number to bill for anything. Now they must demonstrate a higher level of expertise by becoming accredited, the officials said.

CMS said it planned to be "on the ground" in the first 10 CBAs, monitoring the roll out of the program and encouraging beneficiaries, physicians and providers to contact the agency with any concerns.