Industry to analyze list of contract suppliers

Friday, November 1, 2013

WASHINGTON – Now that they have both the single payment amounts and the names of the contract suppliers for the Round 1 re-compete in hand, HME industry stakeholders are wasting no time analyzing the information.

“Has CMS made the same kind of mistakes that it’s made in the past?” said Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare. “Are there licensing issues, are there accreditation issues? Those are certainly things we are going to look at.”

When CMS released the names of the contract suppliers for Round 2 earlier this year, it became quickly apparent that hundreds of contracts were awarded to suppliers that didn’t meet licensure requirements.

For the Round 1 re-compete, the agency has awarded 997 contracts to 282 suppliers to cover nine competitive bidding areas (CBAs). In Round 1, which kicked off Jan. 1, 2011, CMS awarded 1,217 contracts to 356 suppliers for the same nine CBAs.

Although one reason for the reduced number of contract suppliers may be the smaller number of product categories included in the Round 1 re-compete (six) vs. Round 1 (nine), stakeholders point out that CMS added a larger number of products to those six categories. They say it’s too soon to tell whether the difference will result in access issues or is indicative of consolidation in the industry.

The list of contract suppliers comes just weeks after the agency on Oct. 1 released the single payment amounts, which showed a reimbursement cut of, on average, 37%.

In the background of all these developments: a full-court press to repeal competitive bidding. Unfortunately, H.R. 1717, a bill to replace the program with a market-pricing program (MPP), has been stalled at 157 co-sponsors since September.

“We continue to pick up support from the Hill,” said Jay Witter, vice president of government affairs for AAHomecare. “CMS is basically moving forward without giving Congress the proper information and it’s always tough to go against an agency that’s not giving transparency to the issue.”

A new tool in the industry’s fight: AAHomecare has been circulating a survey to providers in Round 2 areas to gauge the impact of the program on providers and beneficiaries. Survey results will be shared with lawmakers.

“For the people who are on the fence and think, but are not sure, they want to support MPP, hopefully this will be the tipping point for them,” said Julie Driver, senior manager of communications and marketing at the association.