Group of legislators: Delay competitive bidding

Sunday, April 6, 2008

WASHINGTON - Three senators and four representatives sent strongly worded letters to the Department of Health and Human Services last week, asking Secretary Michael Leavitt to delay national competitive bidding.

All the letters referenced concerns about bidders who may have been disqualified unfairly and the short 10-day window for singing and returning contracts. The authors: Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; Arlen Specter, R-Pa.; and Robert Casey, D-Pa.; and Reps. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Fla.; Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla.; and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla.

"It has become clear that the competitive bidding program as currently designed--though well-intentioned and congressionally-mandated--is seriously flawed and will undermine beneficiary access and quality of care for the millions of American that rely on the DMEPOS benefit," Brown stated.

Specter and Casey, in a combined letter, ask Leavitt to extend the window for signing and returning contracts by a minimum of 30 days, and delay implementing the contracts on July 1, 2008, "so that full consideration can be given as to how to ensure fair treatment for all providers."

"The delays we request are clearly warranted by the very serious potential errors made by CMS and the CBIC in this process," they stated. "If a large number of bidders have been disqualified in error, it is entirely likely that their re-inclusion may substantially impact the bid outcomes. Thus, it is imperative the current schedule be delayed to that all necessary corrections can be implemented."

Brown asks that Leavitt postpone competitive bidding until the department answers the following questions:

* How did CMS determine each supplier's capacity and thus how many winners were needed for each market? How did CMS determine that a provider with an office eight hours away could serve Medicare beneficiaries with home oxygen therapy? Did CMS rely on unsubstantiated, supplier-reported data estimating capacity for growth?

* What financial criteria were used to evaluate bidders?

* How was the single payment amount for all the codes in each product category in each competitive bidding area calculated? How can the median, "winning" bids be identical across bid areas?

* How many suppliers submitted bids? How many were offered contracts? How many of those offered contracts accepted?

* What legal basis exists for CMS's refusal to provide this information?