Group of Round 2 bidders cry foul
RIVERSIDE, Calif. - Facebook and LinkedIn lit up last week with posts from disgruntled home medical equipment providers that claim Agape Medical Management dropped the ball in submitting their bids for Round 2.
As a result, these providers now face the possible reality of losing a good chunk of their Medicare business.
"It's one thing not to get a contract because your prices were too high," said Tina Jaspan, owner of Jaspan Medical, based in Jackson, Tenn. "It's another thing to pay money to a company that puts themselves out there as an expert and not get all of your bids submitted."
The bid window for Round 2 closed at 9 p.m. EST on March 30. Providers across the country submitted bids for nine product categories in 91 areas.
These providers told HME News they contracted with Agape Medical, at a price tag of anywhere from $5,000 to more than $10,000, to oversee the bid process for them. That meant, among other things, collecting the required information and entering it into DBidS, the online bid system; gathering and submitting the appropriate financial documents; and supplying tools to help them come up with bids, like bid calculators.
For these providers, who were anxious about the process or who didn't have the time to commit to the process, it was a relief to hand over their information and let Agape Medical take over.
"I could have done it myself, but my fiance had just received fatal news, and I knew I wouldn't be able to concentrate on it," said a provider who asked not to be named for fear of losing referral sources and patients. "I thought, 'What's $8,000 to make sure the bids are done correctly?'"
The charges of these providers range from lack of communication (providers claim it took numerous phone calls and emails to get a response, if they got a response at all) to breach of contract (providers claim they went into DBidS in the last days of bidding, only to find out that none, or only some, of their information had been entered into the system).
"I guess shame on us for trusting a company to do this for us," said another provider who asked not to be named.
Some providers were able to jump into the bid system themselves at the last minute and salvage some of their bids. Provider Mike Kernes planned to submit bids for seven product categories in four areas; he was able to salvage a bid for one product category in two areas.
"I went in there and the bids were totally incomplete," said Kernes, general manager at Reliable Medical in Hackensack, N.J. "The only thing I could do was try to enter some stuff myself, but when you have so many codes for a lot of the product categories, there's only so much you can do."
Agape Medical disputes the charges.
"Our initial review indicates...all clients who timely provided Agape with the required information had their bids timely received by Medicare," stated Jerry Kaplan, an attorney representing Agape Medical, in an April 5 letter.
But these providers stand by their stories and they want recourse. Their options include, according to healthcare attorney Jeff Baird: 1.) filing a lawsuit based on breach of contract or some other charge; or 2.) notifying a district attorney's office, state attorney general's office or the U.S. Department of Justice for possible investigation.
"A third course of action would be to just throw themselves at the mercy of the CBIC to extend the bid window," said Baird, chairman of the Health Care Group at Brown & Fortunato in Amarillo, Texas. "Because, when all of this is said and done, the first two options aren't particularly satisfying, because they still don't allow you to bid."
The problem with extending the bid window, however--and Baird acknowledges this--is that you'd be creating a separate set of rules for a group of providers.
"It's extremely unlikely that the CBIC or CMS will extend the bid window," said Mark Higley, vice president of development for The VGM Group, who heard from a handful of affected members last week. "The rest of the HME community, which did submit their bids on time, would be extremely upset."
Agape Medical asks that inquiries be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line "agape bid inquiry."