Competitive bidding: 'We should be hearing any time now'

Sunday, February 17, 2008

WASHINGTON - If CMS plans to announce the winning bidders for the first round of national competitive bidding in March, shouldn't the agency be giving bidders a heads up right now? That's a question that has providers on pins and needles.

Numerous providers in the first 10 competitive bidding areas reported last week that they still hadn't heard anything from CMS.

"We haven't heard and we haven't heard of any providers who have heard," said Kim Brummett, vice president of contracting and reimbursement for Advanced Home Care in Greensboro, N.C. "We should be hearing any time now."

CMS officials have stated that they plan to announce winning bidders in March, educate beneficiaries and referral sources in April, and kick off the program in July.

The timeframe for implementing the program has become "very compressed," acknowledged Walt Gorski, vice president of government affairs for AAHomecare.

"The timing is unclear," he said. "We were under the impression that notifications to bidders would take place in late February and the announcement of winning bidders in March. We haven't heard anything different, but I would suspect that these dates would be slipping a bit, but by how much, nobody knows. They're under the gun."

Once providers find out whether they've won bids or not, they'd like to think CMS would give them some time to play with to accept or decline the bids before its March announcement.

"There are a lot of ifs to figure out," said Will Dolan, managing director of Chair & Equipment Rentals & Sales in Charlotte, N.C. "If we get a bid, we have to review it. If the winning bid is lower than the one we provided, we have to decide whether we can stay in business. We may have to go back to manufacturers and renegotiate."

In the meantime, providers were trying to keep a lid on their apprehension as best they could.

"It's like we booked a vacation six months ago to somewhere we've never been before and now we're leaving in two days," said Rick Perrotta, president of Network Medical Supply in Charlotte, N.C. "You don't know what to expect. There's a lot of anxiousness."