Discharge planners: 'They have no clue what's coming'
Providers worry what discharge planners will think when they learn that, beginning July 1, 2008, they'll have to refer Medicare beneficiaries to a certain group of providers.
CMS plans to educate discharge planners on national competitive bidding after it awards bids in the 10 competitive bidding areas. But that won't happen until later this year, at the earliest.
"They have no clue what's coming, yet they're going to be hugely affected, because they're the ones who make calls to arrange deliveries," said Steve Vinci, general manager of Timberlake Corp., a Sacramento, Calif.-based provider that's part of a hospital system.
Under competitive bidding, discharge planners may not be able to work with providers they've worked with for years. Moreover, they may need to make multiple calls to meet a patient's equipment needs, providers fear.
Alan Cross, co-owner of C&C Homecare in Bradenton, Fla., envisions this happening: A discharge planner calls a winning provider, and he's turned down because the provider's "at capacity."
"They're going to have a field day with that," he said.
Providers are torn over whether to notify discharge planners of the impending changes. Like Vinci, provider Joe Petrolla has given discharge planners a heads up.
"I'm concerned they'll have to call three or four providers to discharge one patient," said Petrolla, vice president of sales for the Andover, Ohio-based Seeley Medical. "How does that make sense?"
Provider Bob Lichtenstein is holding back.
"We don't know who the winning bidders are and, depending on that, you'll also have to talk about rentals, because beneficiaries can still rent with any provider," said Lichtenstein, president of Hollywood Medical Supply in Hollywood, Fla.