Florida legislature passes competitive bidding

Sunday, May 16, 2004

May 17, 2004

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - HME providers across the state cringed April 30 as the Florida legislature passed an appropriations bill that includes a competitive bidding provision for the state Medicaid’s DME benefit. The governor is expected to sign the bill by early June.
The 2004 proposal is a reprisal of a competitive bidding plan that HME providers rallied against and defeated at the eleventh hour in 2003. Like the old plan, the 2004 version would focus on home oxygen and hospital beds and exclude such items as custom wheelchairs, O&P and ostomy products.
For the 2002-2003 fiscal year, Florida spent $71.8 million for DME, up 18% from 2001-2002, according to the Agency for Health Care Administration (Medicaid).
For now, providers in Florida are taking a wait-and-see approach to the initiative, partly because so little detail has been revealed about the proposal.
“We are looking to see what the agency’s next step will be - how and when and where this language will be implemented,” said Javier Talamo, a lawyer with Kravitz & Talamo in Hialeah, who until recently was a DME supplier. “If it’s implemented not to our liking, then we will proceed again.”
FAMES, the state’s DME association, has been fighting and beating back competitive bidding since the controversial reimbursement mechanism was hatched by the state legislature in 2001. This year’s resurrection, they say, was the work of a single DME supplier who had rallied his state rep to insert the scheme in the proviso language of the appropriations bill.
Although several HME companies hired lobbyists to extract the competitive bidding provision, the efforts failed.
“The amount of interest generated by an issue like this is zero,” said Carl Wallman, president of Galaxy Medical in Fort Lauderdale. “This whole thing about sending faxes, that’s not the way you do it. You have to do it at grass roots by supporting those legislators who know it’s not good policy.”