NCB bidding marches on, slowly

Friday, March 31, 2006

WASHINGTON - It's anyone's guess as to when CMS will release a draft of its national competitive bidding (NCB) program, but the smart money seems to be on late March or April.
As of early March, officials at CMS and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) were at odds over some components of the bill. Those disagreements were holding up publication of the draft in the Federal Register.
"We haven't been able to figure out what those conflicts are, but getting the OMB to sign off on the rule is part of the process," said Seth Johnson, vice president of government affairs for Pride Mobility Products.
CMS is required by law to begin competitive bidding for DME in 2007 in 10 of the largest metropolitan statistical areas in the United States.
At the moment, it doesn't look like NCB will begin early in 2007. Following publication of the draft rule in the Federal Register, interested parties have 60 days to comment on the draft. CMS then has to address the comments, and that could take another 60 days. Following publication of the final rule, it takes a minimum of 42 weeks for bidding to start--and that's if there are no mistakes in the final bill. If there are mistakes that need to be fixed, the start will be delayed.
Right now, it looks like competitive bidding won't start until the second or third quarter of 2007. Any delay in implementing the program benefits industry efforts to build support for H.R. 3359, a bill intended to lesson the impact of NCB on providers, say industry watchers.