Competitive bidding haunts Florida providers, again

Friday, April 30, 2004

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Battle worn providers in Florida are gearing up for another rumble with the state over competitive bidding, which has found its way into legislation for the third year in a row.

Florida’s appropriations bill, which would take effect in July, contained language that would require the competitive bidding of DME for Medicaid patients with the exception of customized wheelchairs, ostomy, colostomy and O&P. Only one provider would win each bid, and the contract’s rate must be no more than 80% of the current Medicaid fee schedule, according to the proposal.

The language in the bill nearly mirrors the previous two proposals, said a Florida Association of Medical Equipment Services official. The first bill was defeated through litigation. The second never made it to a vote.

“Once again our industry is face with this competitive bidding proposal,” said FAMES Vice President Javier Talamo. “We are fighting it again and attempting to convince our legislature that it is a horrible idea.”

FAMES members have begun contacting state legislators with their opposition to competitive bidding. The organization hopes to overturn the bill on a political level, but a lawsuit is not out of the question if the issue progresses, said Talamo.

“All we need to do is make sure the legislature knows the effect this would have on their constituents,” he said. “It is a horrible thing to be deprived of your chosen provider simply because the state wants to give the business to someone who helped win a campaign or something.”

The state maintains that a competitive bidding measure is a necessary result of Florida’s recent problems with fraud. FAMES, however, said its efforts to create stricter provider standards should first be considered.

“If the state seeks to curb fraud and reduce expenditures it should engage in fruitful discussions with the DME industry in Florida,” said Talamo in a letter to a state senator.

“If they are looking for fiscal savings, that can be achieved in a number of ways,” he said.