Competitive bidding: It’s still not a done deal

Sunday, July 6, 2008

WASHINGTON - National competitive bidding is a train that has left the station, but it may be headed for an abrupt stop.

Industry sources say the Senate, when it returns to Capitol Hill this week, plans to pick up a Medicare bill that would delay competitive bidding and prevent a 10.6% cut to physician reimbursement. The Senate failed, by a slim margin, to move that same bill forward on June 26. As a result, competitive bidding kicked off July 1. CMS, however, delayed the physician cut, also scheduled to go into effect last week, until at least July 15, to give the Senate more time to act.

So what will be different the second time around?

"Lawmakers are hearing strong concerns from constituents, physicians and providers in their home districts this week," said Walt Gorski, vice president of government affairs for AAHomecare, on Wednesday. "When they return, we believe they will be more inclined to vote for this bill."

The bill, like a bill that passed resoundingly in the House of Representatives on June 24, would delay competitive bidding for 18 to 24 months in exchange for a 9.5% nationwide reimbursement cut for all products included in Round 1. It would also exempt certain complex rehab equipment. The bill contains no additional cuts to home oxygen therapy or power wheelchairs.

The Senate needs at least 60 votes to end debate on the bill and move it forward. With 67 or more votes, the Senate may be able to protect the bill from a possible presidential veto. The president has indicated he may veto the bill because it replaces cuts to physicians with cuts to Medicare Advantage.