Deja vu: Providers re-bid

Sunday, October 25, 2009

BALTIMORE - CMS has begun soliciting re-bids for Round 1.2 of national competitive bidding, but many providers last week were still dotting their I's and crossing their T's.

Before submitting a bid using DBidS, CMS's online bidding system, provider Rick Perrotta was filling out hard copies of the required documentation--Form A and Form B--on Friday.

"I'll probably submit my bid in the next week or two," said Perrotta, president of Network Medical Supply in Charlotte, N.C., one of nine bid areas.

CMS will solicit bids for nine product categories until Dec. 21. It plans to announce winning bid amounts in June and announce winning bidders in September. The program goes live January 2011.

Perrotta had no problems using CMS's online bidding system last year.

"I think I had to call the help line once or twice," he said. "But otherwise, it was pretty straightforward."

Provider Chris Rice did have problems--the Web site crashed and browser windows closed unexpectedly.

"But I've heard the new system is better--that it's more like TurboTax," said Rice, director of marketing for Diamond Respiratory Care in Riverside, Calif., a bid area.

During last week's Open Door Forum, CMS's Joel Kaiser reported that the system, with the exception of a brief hiccup on Wednesday, has been "operating smoothly."

"In fact, we've had a number of bidders who've already completed Form A," he said. "So that's good news."

In addition to worrying about logistics, providers last week continued to worry about low-ball bids (In Round 1.2, CMS requires providers to submit manufacturer invoices as a way to prove that they can furnish products at their submitted bid amounts).

"Low-ball bids are still a big fear," Perrotta said. "It's probably going to happen--it's just a matter of how low they will be."

During last week's forum, Kaiser reminded providers that if they submit their bids by Nov. 21, the agency would notify them of any missing documentation.

"This protects bidders by letting them know what was missed, so they have the opportunity to submit that document and have a complete bid," he said. "We have to stress, (however), that this is a process for identifying missing documents, not determining whether the document was filled out correctly or is sufficient for being considered as a contract supplier under the program."