N.C. Medicaid, HMEs discuss reimbursement cuts

Wednesday, July 31, 2002

RALEIGH, N.C. - North Carolina Medicaid hasn't tabled its plan for competitive bidding, but officials are at least talking to providers about alternatives.

"They seem to be working with us more now that we have the support of so many state legislators, who have probably influenced their openness," said Beth Bowen, executive director of the North Carolina Association for Medical Equipment Services (NCAMES).

At the moment, it looks like the state's House and Senate might not be able to compromise on a budget. If that happens, the governor will enact his budget, which does not include language for competitive bidding but does call for Medicaid savings.

In all, the state wants to trim its HME budget by $690,000 to help solve a $1.5 billion state budget deficit. While nothing has been set in stone, there are other ways to do that besides competitive bidding, Bowen said.

For example, in 1997, NCAMES turned back a proposal for competitive bidding by sitting down with state officials and making adjustments to the fee schedule that saved North Carolina about $1 million.

In addition to possible cuts to the fee schedule, this time around, there's also been discussion of saving money by more strictly enforcing the state's HME licensure regulations and barring providers from the program who don't do a certain level of business with Medicaid.

"We're heading in the right direction," Bowen said. "It's not over yet, but the immediate pressure is off to take care of it yesterday." HME