NewsPoll: Surety bonds? Enough already!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Although not as time consuming or expensive as accreditation, Medicare’s mandate that providers must obtain $50,000 surety bonds is still a “big deal,” say HME providers.

New providers and those changing ownership had to obtain bonds by May 4. Existing providers must obtain bonds by Oct. 2.

The majority of the 152 respondents to a recent HME NewsPoll (80%) gave the requirement a collective thumbs-down.

After the past couple of months, its no wonder providers are feeling henpecked.

“In 2009 alone, DME suppliers have faced additional costs such as accreditation, the surety bond, the oxygen cap and 9.5% reimbursement cuts,” wrote Darrell Smeath of Burle Medical in Nevada. “Whether it be $2 or $2,000, enough is enough.”

The bonds have been touted as a way to curb Medicare fraud and abuse, but providers aren’t buying that rationale.

“A $50,000 bond will never stop a determined crook from doing anything,” wrote Michelle Whittle, owner of HME Plus in Slidell, La. “It’s just one more slap in the face to small businesses.

A provider’s good standing with Medicare should speak for itself, say others.

“Why should everyone have to get a surety bond if you haven’t had a problem with Medicare in 20 years?” wrote provider John Zona. “Again, the legitimate players are also paying for the scoundrels.”

If the bonds are such a great way to fight fraud, CMS should go after the providers who pose the highest risk, said provider Tyrrell Hunter.

“If the vast majority of fraud and abuse is committed by new providers then why not demand they get the surety bond for three or four years,” suggests Hunter of Topsham, Maine-based Majors Mobility.

Three quarters of respondents had not yet begun filling out the bond application at press time in May, but the verdict of those who had: It was rather painless.

“The surety bond is not a big deal and it doesn’t take much time to get,” wrote one provider. “This is one of the many small bureaucratic nonsensical things Medicare requires providers to do.”