Industry casts further doubt on bid process

Friday, May 17, 2013

WASHINGTON – H.R. 1717 remains the HME industry’s No. 1 priority, but with time running out, stakeholders are again pressing for a delay in the July 1 start date of Round 2 of competitive bidding.

The basis for that delay: a growing list of contract suppliers that appear to fail to meet various licensure or accreditation requirements in accordance with CMS’s own bidding rules, they say.

“This is raising significant issues about the process that CMS used to apply due diligence to complete the contracting process and raises concerns about how the contracts were determined,” said Wayne Stanfield, president and CEO of NAIMES.

In the latest wrinkle, The VGM Group has identified about 300 contract suppliers that, as of May 10, do not appear to meet accreditation requirements for the products they accepted contracts for. They had to meet that and other requirements by May 1.

VGM has put together a one-page handout that outlines those findings and is passing it along to lawmakers. The handout asks for a delay in the program, through legislation or an administrative request from the Department of Health and Human Services, says Ryan Ball.

“The handout seems to get their attention,” said Ball, director of state policy for VGM & Associates.

The bigger issue is whether those unqualified suppliers “polluted” the bidding process, says Cara Bachenheimer.

“When you look at the volume of firms that did not meet licensure requirements, it completely pollutes the calculations of the single payment amounts,” said Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare. “Other providers should have been in the mix with different payment amounts.”

With about 150 expected to converge on Capitol Hill May 22-23 as part of AAHomecare’s Washington Legislative Conference, providers should pull out the stops to press lawmakers to delay Round 2 and implement H.R. 1717, which would replace competitive bidding with a market-pricing program or MPP. Introduced April 24 by Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., the bill currently has 65 co-sponsors.

“We’ve got a showcase for members that this was dubious and needs to be delayed and changed,” said John Gallagher, vice president of government relations for The VGM Group.