Industry moves to extend bidding deadline

Sunday, June 17, 2007

WASHINGTON - Home medical equipment providers need more than 60 days to formulate and submit bids for national competitive bidding, industry sources say, and there's a move afoot to help them get it.

"We are exploring every means possible, working with CMS and with Congress, to extend the bidding window until later this year," said Walt Gorski, AAHomecare's vice president of government affairs. "We think the July 13 deadline is too early."

Providers in 10 competitive bidding areas (CBAs) must submit their bids by July 13. So far, providers have encountered a myriad of problems as they attempt to craft their bids. For example, it often takes days for CMS or the competitive bidding implementation contractor (CBIC) to answer questions on how to bid. Additionally, CMS and the CBIC have, on occasion, contradicted each other or have been unable to adequately answer a question, say industry sources.

The details of the final bidding plan also confuse and trouble providers. A Florida HME, for example, recounted a number of intricacies that make determining your capacity to handle a bid difficult. He also voiced concern that fly-by-night providers could buy cheap off-shore products--a move that would hurt providers who deal with reputable vendors--and skew the bid price downward.

Additionally, while the CBIC has answered his questions in two or three days, that's not fast enough given the short 60-day bidding window, he said.

"Just because they are answering the questions one at a time, doesn't mean you can formulate a strategy in enough time to proceed the way you need to proceed with a decision of this magnitude," he said.

Don Clayback, senior vice presidents of networks for The MED Group, called extending the bidding period a "reasonable request."

"We want to get CMS what it is looking for: informed and educated bids," he said. "But they are handicapping us right from the start."