Competitive bidding: It's like 'motherhood and apple pie'

Thursday, March 31, 2005

DUBLIN, Ohio -- The HME industry has fallen short in its efforts to prevent the phrase "competitive bidding" from become a fixture in the vocabulary of Washington lawmakers, according to industry supporter Rep. David Hobson, R-Ohio.
"Hobson has lectured us on that," said Kam Yuricich, executive director of the Ohio Association of Medical Equipment Suppliers. "Even in his efforts to educate his colleagues on that issue, we are already at a disadvantage when you start the conversation with 'competitive bidding.'"
"That phrase sounds so attractive as an option for government," she added. "Why would you not want to get a competitive bid for items? As Hobson understands and explains to his colleagues -- and it is the message we lobby -- it is 'selective contracting.' It is the elimination of competition."
Hobson lumps competitive bidding in with motherhood and apple pie and other phrases near and dear to the lawmaker's heart. As such, trying to explain to a senator or representative that "competitive bidding" is bad is a difficult task. At this point, turning the discussion away from competitive bidding and toward selective contracting is not only a legislative fight but also a major public relations battle, Yuricich said.
It's a fight OAMES and the industry is up for, she said. As proof, she pointed to last year's efforts to gather support for H.R. 4491. The bill would have repealed the recently implemented Medicare-FEHBP reimbursement cuts. Even though it failed, providers convinced 117 representatives to support the legislation. That's an impressive accomplishment, perhaps the greatest show of legislative support in the industry's history.
Providers need to demonstrate the same tenacity in fighting competitive bidding, scheduled to begin in 2007, she said.
"When the industry pulls together like that, a force develops," Yuricich said. "Legislators have their roles. Associations have their roles. Individual business owners and employees have their roles, and you have to have all these working together to come up with the right result."