Competitive bidding: Bill picks up sponsors but program continues to snowball

Friday, April 1, 2011

BALTIMORE – Even as H.R. 1041, the bill to repeal competitive bidding, picks up steam, members of the Program Advisory and Oversight Committee (PAOC) are looking ahead to their meeting tomorrow.

“This big snowball is rolling downhill and crushing everything in sight,” said Tom Milam, an industry consultant and PAOC member. “We would like to be involved in the discussion of what’s wise given what is transpiring right now.”

On the agenda for the daylong meeting: a discussion of the product categories and the timeline for Round 2, and an update on “real time” claims monitoring in the nine competitive bidding areas in Round 1.

That last item is information that Milam said he and some other PAOC members had requested in advance—but didn’t get.

“They have the tool (to track) changes in utilization patterns, not just in Part B but also in Part A,” he said. “We wanted to digest it and discuss it.”

That seems to be in keeping with CMS’s method of keeping things close to the vest, said Milam.

“They wait until the last minute to make announcements and frequently delay and postpone (others),” he said. “Then, they spring it on everyone with short timelines so nothing can be done to improve or amend whatever has been decided.”

Meanwhile, with lawmakers back in session last week, H.R. 1041 officially picked up an additional 23 sponsors, bringing the total to 53.

That’s great, but there’s a long way to go yet, cautioned NAIMES president Wayne Stanfield.

“We’ve got to have many, many more sponsors and a Senate companion bill if we expect to make an impact on Congress,” he said. “That’s going to require grassroots efforts at the state and district levels to make this happen.”

The co-sponsors are split fairly evenly between Republicans and Democrats, and they comprise supporters of last session’s H.R. 3790 and freshman lawmakers, said Jay Witter, senior director of government relations for AAHomecare.

As to those who haven’t signed on yet:

“I think it’s the usual members saying they’d like to see (the program) be given a chance, or telling us they are not hearing about problems,” said Witter. “They are basically repeating what CMS is telling Congress.”