Fla. HMEs rue Medicaid comp. bidding

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Thursday, February 28, 2002

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - When it comes to the details of Medicaid's competitive bidding project here, providers remain in the dark, which is a little disconcerting, especially for those who've participated in Medicare's competitive bidding demonstration project in Polk County.

"We've had no notification, other than reading about it in the press, and we're usually in the know," said Butch Vanderpool, president of the Auburndale, Fla.-based Health Care Diagnostics. "With Medicare, they sent people here and had seminars. It was a big deal."

Brain Seeley, president of the Ormond Beach, Fla.-based Seeley Medical Inc., said providers belonging to the Florida Association of Medical Equipment Services (FAMES) are among a small group that know Medicaid's competitive bidding project is coming down the pike. But that's all they know.

"I think they're trying to take people by surprise," Seeley said.

Florida planned to issue requests for proposals (RFPs) by the end of 2001 and implement the project six to seven weeks after that.

Maureen Hemmerly, project coordinator, said Medicaid management is still reviewing how to run the competitive bidding project.

"We're taking our time to be careful about what services we want to cover," she said. "It may not be as comprehensive as all DME, and we don't want to get people who won't be involved stressed about it."

Hemmerly said she has several ways of communicating details to providers, when they develop, but she wouldn't elaborate.

Joan Cross, president of FAMES, said she's heard rumblings that prosthetics and some wheelchairs may be left out, but nothing else.

Whatever the details of the project, providers here are skeptical that it'll succeed. Florida Medicaid's reimbursement is already lower than what Medicare reimbursed in its Polk County demonstration.

"I think they're barking up the wrong tree," Seeley said.

"I'll participate subject to seeing the allowable," said Robert Slama, owner of the Lakeland, Fla.-based Medi-Health Care. "But you can only go so low." HME

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