Competitive bidding: ‘We’re in a bog waiting for that score’

By Theresa Flaherty, Managing Editor
Friday, July 20, 2012

WASHINGTON – There's still no word on a score for the HME industry's market-pricing program (MPP) but the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) appears to be working on it, stakeholders say.

"They've come back to the industry and asked for explanations for various points related to MPP," said Wayne Stanfield, president and CEO of NAIMES. "They asked questions about capacity and the size of the competitive bidding areas. That doesn’t necessarily imply that anything's moving any quicker."

The industry unveiled MPP, its alternative to CMS's competitive bidding program, last fall.

While stakeholders believe the proposal is budget neutral, they need a CBO score to confirm that before they can get a sponsor and move it forward.

"We're in a bog waiting for that score," said John Gallagher, vice president of government relations for The VGM Group.

While the score is out of the industry's hands at this point, providers are still grabbing opportunities to press lawmakers. Provider Wayne Knewasser bumped into Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., at a recent fundraiser.

"I asked him if there was anything he could do to make an inquiry about helping us get it scored," said Knewasser, vice president of public relations and government affairs for Louisville, Ky.-based Premier HomeCare. "I wasn't asking his support one way or the other on MPP, other than to just bring it to the CBO's attention."

With Round 2 already underway, and a Round 1 re-compete imminent, there's no time to waste. Last week, AAHomecare sent a list of more than 450 businesses that have been impacted by the bidding program to the House Ways and Means Committee. The list, compiled with the help of The VGM Group, NAIMES and several other industry associations, was in response to a request in May by Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio.

"It's a significant number," said Jay Witter, senior director of government affairs for AAHomecare. "That's not exclusive. You hear a lot anecdotally. There could be more."

You won't get any argument from provider Randy Freeman, who has a street-level view of the Fort Worth-Dallas area, a Round 1 CBA.

"We are seeing providers drop like flies," said Freeman, owner of Mediwell. "Everyone that was hanging on by their fingernails is now going out of business. I personally know of nine companies that have gone out of business due to competitive bidding."