NewsPoll: Providers weighing Round 2 pros and cons

Thursday, February 17, 2011

YARMOUTH, Maine - Ready or not, competitive bidding is coming around again, and providers in Round 2 areas must decide whether to participate.

In the most recent HME NewsPoll, 75% of respondents located in a Round 2 competitive bidding area said they planned to submit a bid.

"I've committed my life to this business, and unfortunately, Medicare is a necessary evil," said Lori Sears, owner of Active Home Medical Supply in Lapeer, Mich. "We will focus on becoming more efficient and trying to find easier ways to stay informed."

The proposed timeline for Round 2 was as follows: CMS planned to announce affected zip codes and product categories last fall; open registration sometime this winter; accept bid this summer; and implement the program Jan. 1, 2013.

So far, none of that has happened. The lack of a clear timeline may be contributing to a reluctance on the part of providers to move forward with bidding preparations.

"I'll wait for an announcement of the timetable," said one respondent. "We're not certain that this process is going to forward at all."

In fact, although three quarters of providers said they planned to bid, 62% said they hadn't started getting ready to do so.

"We have not made any preparations for the next round, but we have to bid for consumer power if we want to stay in business," said Rick Perrotta, president of Charlotte, N.C.-based Network Medical Supply. "If the next round is the same as this one, not only can we not furnish equipment--we can't even repair our customer's equipment."

Other providers have started taking the necessary steps toward preparing a bid, everything from updating required licensure and getting financial documentation in order to seeking out education.

"I registered for an April workshop on how to complete a bid," said Tricia Diblee, president of Signature Medical Supply in Wilsonville, Ore. "We are re-contracting with manufacturers for the best rates we can get and trying to pencil out the outcome of anticipated rates."

Win or lose, providers need to be prepared, they say.

"I am developing an analysis of operating costs as well as a forecasted profit and loss as a bid winner and as a bid loser," said Marc Feuerman, owner of TLC Oxygen and Medical Supplies in Leesburg, Fla.

Meanwhile, the industry continues on several fronts to try and either repeal or reform the hated program--something that some providers may be hanging their hats on.

"I have made no preparations," said one respondent. "I hope it all goes away. I have been in this business for 26 years and I am worn out."