Congressional staffers get up close and personal with bidding problems

Monday, May 30, 2011

WASHINGTON - A pair of Hill briefings May 24 should leave no doubt in the minds of congressional staffers, including for the first time those in the Senate, that competitive bidding is a disaster, say industry stakeholders.

"CMS is doing an atrocious job with the DME auction program," was the first slide in Prof. Peter Cramton's presentation to the 60 or so House staffers who attended the morning hearing. That message carried over to an afternoon briefing for about 40 Senate staffers.

"I see the Senate briefing as a significant step forward," said Jay Witter, senior director of government relations for AAHomecare. "I think the Senate is now paying more attention to the problems of bidding."

That's important. While House lawmakers have been supportive of repealing competitive bidding--H.R. 1041 now has 110 co-sponsors--Senate lawmakers haven't been responsive to introducing a companion bill.

"Trying to educate people in the Senate has been really tough," said Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare. "This is the first time the Senate side has heard this firsthand from Dr. Cramton."

Also speaking at the morning hearing was Tom Milam, a PAOC member and former CEO of mail-order diabetes supply firm AmMed Direct. Milam was one of 12 PAOC members who sent a letter to CMS earlier in May seeking Round 1 data.

"The majority of the PAOC is not satisfied or happy with the quality of the data that CMS has been providing us with," said Milam. "Communication has been stifled and our suggestions have not been replied to. That leaves us unable to fulfill our duties."