Industry treads water on competitive bidding
WASHINGTON – As the summer heat drags on, so, too, do issues of importance to the HME industry. Chief among them: competitive bidding.
Stakeholders continue to talk up the market-pricing program (MPP) on the Hill, but, while the alternative to competitive bidding has been well-received, it remains stuck in the Congressional Budget Office for a score.
"We are definitely getting closer, but I can't say more than that," said Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare, last week. "We are optimistic that it's coming sooner rather than later."
Once MPP is scored, stakeholders hope to get a sponsor and move it forward, either as a standalone bill, or attached to a larger legislative vehicle.
Meanwhile, observers outside of the HME industry continue to weigh in on the program. Last week, Bloomberg Government released a report that said CMS may be overstating the projected savings from the competitive bidding program. The report, released to Bloomberg clients, also mentioned the 85% reduction in providers in Round 1 bidding areas.
"It's another case of someone who is supporting what we have been saying from the start," said Wayne Stanfield, president and CEO of NAIMES. "The timing was good, but nothing that anyone says is changing the direction CMS is taking and, barring a legislative intervention, nothing will."
CMS, for its part, continues to blast out messages saying that it will soon announce more details on the Round 1 re-compete, including a timeline. Stakeholders have their fingers crossed that CMS will announce changes to the product categories, as well. When the agency announced the product categories in April, it included about 100 new codes and reduced the number of product categories from nine to six. The new categories are simply unworkable for most providers, say stakeholders.
"They are going to sacrifice quality unless they change the product categories," said Walt Gorski, vice president of government relations for AAHomecare. "I would be shocked if they decided to dig in their heels and not change anything."