Congress seriously considers national competitive bidding

Tuesday, April 30, 2002

WASHINGTON — While national competitive bidding has appeared as a proposal in the federal budget during past administrations, industry officials are taking it more seriously than ever this year.

"Big paradigm shifts get floated around for several years before they are taken seriously," said healthcare attorney Tom Antone. "Congress is considering it seriously this year to the point that it is not just in the President's budget, but Hill staffers are fleshing it out."

There's a chance the House of Representatives could vote on competitive bidding prior to its Memorial Day recesses. If the House passes the proposal, it would then go to the Senate.

So seriously is it being considered that in a letter last month to AAHomecare's board of directors and Legislative Policy Committee, Pres. Thomas Connaughton wrote: "we have no choice but to do everything we can to convince policy makers that a national program would be a disaster."

With the federal government project to run a deficit, and states' grappling with skyrocketing Medicaid costs, competitive bidding has rarely looked this attractive to lawmakers.

AAHomecare is urging all state HME associations to contact their Washington representatives and explain the dangers of competitive bidding, such as a decrease in patient choice and reduced services.

The New York Medical Equipment Providers (NYMEP) association views President Bush's proposal for national competitive bidding as "cause for alarm" and last month visited Capitol Hill and met with the state's Washington delegation. The delegation was "very concerned" and agreed to write a letter to Chairman Bill Thomas of the Ways and Means committee, outline competitive bidding's impact on New York.

"We need to get busy," said Jim Clarke, NYMEP president. "This is a call to arms. Look what happened to us with BBA '97 because we became complacent." HME