Florida moves forward with bidding

Wednesday, June 30, 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 2004 bill 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 [Medicaid’s] next step will be - how and when and where this language will be implemented,” said Javier Talamo, a lawyer with Kravitz & Talamo, 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. But not all of the state’s providers are opposed to it.

Raul Rodriguez, president and CEO of All Med Services in Miami Lakes, Fla., said the initiative makes sense for Florida as a filter for fraud and abuse. He doesn’t believe the initiative will deny beneficiaries access to quality services.

“People have always said you get less quality because you’re in an HMO, because you get less money,” he said. “But we deliver a quality product to all our members whether they’re in an HMO or not.”