Legal

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Saturday, November 30, 2002

Post-election climate for competitive bidding
WITH ELIZABETH HOGUE
Q: What effect could recent elections have on competitive bidding at the federal level?

A: The Republican Administration certainly seems to be enamored with competitive bidding. Consequently, there are likely to be additional significant initiatives in this area. In addition, the underlying tone of discussions about competitive bidding seems to be that it is HME's "turn." That is, hospitals, physicians, long-term care providers and home health agencies have paid their dues, and now HME companies must do the same.

While both of these perceptions are unfortunate, the most effective way to combat them may be to propose alternatives for saving money. The North Carolina Association of Medical Equipment Services (NCAMES), for example, recently succeeded in derailing competitive bidding in the state using this strategy. While this strategy may place dealers in the difficult position of "bidding against themselves," it no longer seems sufficient to oppose competitive bidding on the federal level without developing and even promoting alternatives.

As always, the focus of efforts to defeat competitive bidding and the essence of alternatives proposed should be on the well-being of patients, not the health of HME businesses. Although the business imperative of financial viability is well-accepted, patient care will always carry the day. Now is the time for the industry to step forward with its best, most creative thinking about alternatives to competitive bidding.

Attorney Elizabeth Hogue is in private practice. Reach her at (301) 421-0143.

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