Ladies and gentlemen: Please prepare your bids

Saturday, June 30, 2007

WASHINGTON - CMS opened the bidding window for national competitive bidding May 15. But providers, even those who are prepared, reported that they plan to hold off on bidding until a few weeks before the July 13 deadline.
"We've laid a lot of the groundwork, but that doesn't mean we won't be reevaluating and reevaluating one more time," said Georgie Blackburn, compliance director for Blackburn's, part of the Pittsburgh competitive bidding area (CBA). "Each time we read through the paperwork, we find something that we missed. We'll submit our bid later rather than sooner."
Providers must submit bids by 9 p.m. EST on July 13. CMS plans to award in December contracts that run from April 1, 2008, to Dec. 31, 2009, for mail order diabetic supplies and April 1, 2008, to March 31, 2011, for all other product categories.
Like Blackburn, provider Raul Lopez said he plans to continue "playing with figures" until a week or two before the submission deadline.
"We have numbers rolling around in our head, but we'll want to go back and double check our figures," said Lopez, director of operations for BayShore Dura Medical, part of the Miami CBA. "We'll probably go back three times a week until the deadline."
Providers shouldn't wait too long, however, before submitting bids, advised industry attorney Asela Cuervo.
"Pull the request for bids (RFB) down and start analyzing it closely," she said. "Sixty days isn't a long time. There are a lot of problems that need to be anticipated, and if you wait until the last minute, you may not have enough time to address them."
Providers acknowledged that they worry about using the Internet to submit bids. They reported fearing everything from security breaches to system failures.
"If providers go down to the wire to submit bids, how will the system handle that sudden volume?" Lopez asked.
Provider Kim Brummett already reported some difficulty the day bidding opened. Brummett, vice president of contracting and reimbursement for Advanced Home Care, part of the Charlotte, N.C., CBA, logged on to analyze the RFB and found nothing.
"All you can do is change your password," she said. "(But) I'm sure they'll post it."
Even with the bidding window open, AAHomecare continued to appeal to CMS to "slow down." There are still too many questions, the association believes, like do subcontractors have to be accredited to participate?
"There are basic fundamental questions that have yet to be answered," said Walt Gorski, AAHomecare's vice president of government affairs. "CMS has been extremely aggressive, and we would hope that they would slow down, so we have the opportunity to get this right, rather than rushing it into place to meet arbitrary deadlines."
In addition to the July 13 bidding deadline, providers must become accredited before Aug. 31, CMS has stated.