Lawmakers, not Scully, will decide NCB's fate

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Monday, September 30, 2002

WASHINGTON - Competitive bidding for DMEPOS has turned into a cliff hanger.

As of press time, the Senate had not followed the House's lead and put together a budget package that included nationwide competitive bidding (NCB), either as part of a prescription drug bill or provider giveback legislation.

There's also word on the street that lawmakers might wait until after the November elections before doing anything that might anger constituents.

While CMS Administrator Tom Scully has recently come out strongly in support of NCB, after months of making suggestive statements to the contrary, legislators will ultimately decide if the dreaded methodology sinks or swims. That's why AAHomecare continues to beat the drum and encourage providers to educate lawmakers as to what the industry perceives to be NCB dangers: lack of patient access and a drop in quality of care, among other things.

A word of support from Scully wouldn't hurt, but in the heat of battle, he has little choice but to support the Administration's view that NCB is good, say industry watchers.

"It's interesting," said healthcare attorney Ann Berriman. "Everyone was so anxious and hopeful that Scully would be pro-industry and see things the way a business man would, as opposed to how the Administration does. But I don't see that as having been the case so far."

Added AAHomecare CEO Tom Connaughton: "Tom (Scully) is one of those guys with very definite views. He told us early on that he does not have a real favorable view of the DME industry, and that mindset is still with him. He thinks there is lots of money in the industry that could be saved and we have tried to convince him otherwise, but we can tell he still has the views that there are some savings." HME

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