Lawmakers call on OIG to investigate competitive bidding

Monday, June 24, 2013

WASHINGTON – In a June 21 letter to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), Reps. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., and Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, call on the agency to investigate the possibility that CMS deliberately overlooked its own rules when awarding contracts for competitive bidding, according to a press release.

The OIG is charged with identifying and combating waste, fraud and abuse in more than 300 programs, including Medicare.

“We have asked the Inspector General to look into the shortfalls, but also to investigate the possibility that officials at Medicare intentionally ignored their own rules when problems began to arise,” Thompson stated.

CMS plans to move forward with the program despite violating its own guidelines by awarding contracts to providers who are unlicensed in certain states. The agency recently disqualified 30 contract suppliers who did not meet certain licensure requirements in Tennessee.

Thompson and Braley say the disqualifications raise serious questions as to how CMS determined the demand in a given competitive bidding area and the capacity of suppliers to adequately service that area.

“If CMS believes 68 suppliers are adequate for the state of Tennessee, why were 98 suppliers awarded contracts?” the letter states.

Additionally, Thompson and Braley point out that the methods CMS used to calculate the payment amounts took into account the bids of now disqualified suppliers.

“Not only should the bids be removed, but it remains unclear to us how CMS can move forward with additional contracts because they do not have accurate pricing,” the letter states.

Thompson and Braley say licensure issues are not limited to Tennessee. On June 12, in a letter sent to CMS asking for an administrative delay for the program, the lawmakers indicated that licensure irregularities have been identified in Maryland and Ohio, and that unlicensed suppliers may have been awarded contracts in Michigan.

“Medicare’s reaction to admitted misconduct in the program has been lackluster,” Thompson stated. “There was improper vetting of suppliers and the public deserves to know that measures will be taken to guarantee program failures will not continue.”