Neither side backing down on competitive bidding messages

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

WASHINGTON - Six weeks after the start of the national competitive bidding program, the gulf between CMS and the HME industry continues to widen.

"We are pleased to report that implementation of the program is going very smoothly," stated CMS Administrator Donald Berwick, in a listserv message sent yesterday. "We continue to deploy a wide array of resources across all of the competitive bidding areas to address any concerns that may arise."

The program, which kicked off Jan. 1 in nine competitive bidding areas, affects about 4 million Medicare beneficiaries.

AAHomecare today struck back in a letter from President Tyler Wilson to its members.

"AAHomecare has seen enough," stated the letter. "Competitive bidding for home medical equipment must be abolished. The homecare system should not be characterized and viewed merely in terms of the lowest cost and who can provide it most cheaply."

The CMS message states that CMS has received only "a handful" of complaints from beneficiaries.

"CMS continues to monitor the implementation of the program very carefully," stated Berwick. "We urge all stakeholders to bring any issues to our attention in order for our caseworkers to resolve them as quickly as possible."

There is a growing list of problems being reported, says AAHomecare.

"The Medicare agency has been alarmingly dismissive toward a host of issues and completely unwilling to do any self-examination," stated Wilson.

Wilson places much of the blame for the program on Congress.

"Lawmakers can be roundly criticized for mandating the program that is now causing such terrible financial hardship and economic dislocation," he stated. "Congress bears the responsibility and we should let them hear our anger."