NCB advisory group brews

Saturday, July 31, 2004

BALTIMORE - Would-be advisers to Medicare’s plans for competitive bidding submitted their nominations to CMS last month. CMS officials don’t yet know when they’ll finalize their picks for the committee but have tentatively scheduled a first face-to-face meeting for October.

Ultimately, the Program Oversight Advisory Committee (POAC) will be populated by 12-15 representatives from a broad array of groups, including suppliers, physicians, manufacturers, beneficiaries, professional standards organizations, financial standards specialists, data management specialists, association representatives and experts in shipping fragile medical materials.

The committee will meet every two months in Baltimore or Washington during the first year and quarterly thereafter.

The committee’s function, said one CMS official, is pretty straightforward:

“We’re going to look to them to give us recommendations, ideas and direction on how we could possibly approach certain issues. We will consider that as we develop a framework for competitive bidding.”

CMS also is looking for input from the Research Triangle Institute, which landed an advisory contract to provide similar advice to the CMS Work Group charged with the development of a competitive bidding program that will debut in 10 cities in 2007.

RTI conducted surveys of the competitive bidding demonstration projects in Polk County, Fla., and San Antonio, Texas, and found that competitive bidding “can meet Medicare’s objectives in terms of program savings, maintaining access and quality, preserving competition in the DMEPOS markets and administrative feasibility,” according to an RTI report.

CMS said it’s possible that the competitive bidding program may look very similar to the demonstration projects.

“To the extent that we can’t find a better way of doing it, we’ll do it as they did it in the demo,” said the official.

With such short shrift given to the supplier on the Program Oversight Advisory Committee, the VGM Group’s John Gallagher wonders whether the independent supplier will get due process from committee, especially if the one or two supplier slots are taken by large players.

“If I’m a heavy national or a heavy regional, I don’t care if my competitors go away,” said VGM’s director of government affairs. “I’ll just gain more market share.”