Florida Medicaid releases RFP for competitive bidding; HMEs vent anger

Sunday, March 31, 2002

TALAHASSEE, Fla. - Now that Medicaid has released an RFP for its competitive bidding project, HME providers are no longer in the dark, but they still can't see well enough, and a lot of what they do see, they don't like.

The details of the 72-page RFP, which was released Feb. 28, look like this:

- Bids will be accepted for hospital beds and respiratory equipment and supplies;

- One provider will be selected for each of the 11 regions, with the same provider being eligible for more than one region (Networking is also allowed but any subcontractors need to be approved);

- Three-year contracts will be awarded (from May 15 through April 30, 2005);

- A $6,000 proposal bond must be submitted for each service area. Also, a performance and payment bond that's 20% of the total value of the contract or $5,000, whichever is less, must be submitted; and

- Bids must demonstrate the ability to yield cost savings established by the Legislature, which is rumored to be a decrease of 5% to 7% or $1.7 million.

Since the release of the RFP, providers have scrambled to digest and respond to the details of the, until now, top-secret project. They had less than two weeks to file a notice of intent to submit a proposal and until March 20 to send in written inquiries.

Butch Vanderpool, president and CEO of the Auburndale, Fla.-based Health Care Diagnostics, has sent Medicaid a five-page document with 39 questions. He said what he gets for answers will determine whether his company participates (Agency responses are due out March 27).

"Not only was the RFP given to us so late, and with unrealistic deadlines, but it's so vague," said Vanderpool, whose company won bids for hospital beds and respiratory equipment and supplies in Medicare's Polk County competitive bidding project. "Anyone would be a fool to go along with this without more information."

But as far as the Florida Association of Medical Equipment Services (FAMES) knows, this is all the education providers are going to get. Unlike the Polk County competitive bidding project, no training guidance outside the RFP is currently scheduled.

Vanderpool's questions range from Medicaid's definition of respiratory equipment and supplies (Will it cover sleep therapy?) to the existing $50,000 Medicaid bond and the $6,000 proposal bond requirement to the growth rate for the Medicaid population in each of the 11 regions?

Joan Cross, president of FAMES, faxed a bulletin to FAMES members on March 18 outlining the following concerns with the RFP:

- The time frame is inadequate;

- Minimal data is provided with which to create a fair and reasonable proposal;

- The project isn't a demonstration;

- Cost is its only focus;

- There's no mention of how the bids will be decided; and

- The required utilization review system unfairly asks providers to act as "gatekeepers."

Is Cross recommending providers participate?

"As president of FAMES, I'm gleaning whatever I can glean from anyone I can and relaying it," said Cross, president of the Bradenton, Calif.-based C & C Homecare. "As a business owner, no way."

Attempts to reach Maureen Hemmerly, project coordinator, were unsuccessful. Providers have until April 5 to submit proposals. HME