Fla. Medicaid implements comp. bidding

Monday, December 31, 2001

TALLAHASSEE, FLA. - Florida providers are dismayed and incredulous that the state Medicaid program plans to go ahead with a competitive bidding program for durable medical equipment.

"I don't get it," said Robert Slama, owner, Medi-Health Care, Lakeland, Fla. "If it's not Medicare doing this, it's Medicaid doing that. Everybody has had enough."

The Florida legislature approved Medicaid competitive bidding a little more than a year ago but never acted on it. Now, with the recession drying up state revenues, Florida lawmakers, desperate to save money, have pulled competitive bidding out of the closet and dusted it off.

Florida planned to issue RFPs last month and implement competitive bidding six to seven weeks after that.

"There's not a whole lot we can do at this point," said Joan Cross, president of Florida Association of Medical Equipment Dealers. "Unless they come back after the bids and find out it's not going to save any money. That's the only way it is not going to happen."

Thus far, the state has remained silent on what products will be included or how the program will be managed. But unlike Medicare's competitive bidding demonstration projects in Polk County, Fla., and San Antonio, Florida's Medicaid program is not a pilot.

What's more, Florida Medicaid's reimbursement is already lower than what Medicare reimburses in its Polk County demonstration, say Florida providers.

"They are trying to save money by doing competitive bidding, but they don't know how they are going to do it," Cross said. "On the surface, it seems like a program that would save money, but they don't even have start-up costs."

Maureen Hemmerly, spokesperson for Florida Medicaid, declined to discuss the competitive bidding program. But conducting a wide-scale competitive bidding project in a large state like Florida with hundreds of providers is "misguided," said Asela Cuervo, AAhomecare's v. p. of governmental affairs

"My guess is that Florida - being as big a state as it is, with as many beneficiaries as it has - will encounter significant administrative problems in overseeing something like competitive bidding," she said.

While other states may be looking at competitive bidding, Cuervo said, don't expect them to rush into it.

"I think a lot of the programs are waiting to see what happens on the Medicare level," she said. "And as it is, Medicaid pays so much less than Medicare that I think they would have a hard time attracting quality providers across the board." HME