Ohio proposes 'volume purchasing'

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio has threatened to implement competitive bidding for home medical equipment for several years, but in September, the state put its money where its mouth is.
The Department of Job & Family Services has released a rule that proposes "volume purchasing" for home medical equipment. It gave providers until Sept. 21 to submit comments.
"We have submitted 30 comments," said Jason Seeley, vice president of the Columbus, Ohio-based DASCO Home Medical Equipment, which has several locations in the state. "We told (employees) what's going on, and we asked them to comment. It's crazy; we have to stop it now."
The competitive bidding chatter in Ohio began in 2004, when the state formed an independent commission to examine ways to cut costs from the Medicaid program, which in 2006, topped $10.5 billion. Until now, however, the state had never gone as far as to propose a rule.
One of the biggest complaints providers have with the state's proposal is its vagueness.
"There are no specifics," said Jim Frederick, a former president of the Ohio Association for Medical Equipment Services (OAMES). "It gives them full permission to do anything they want to do, which is scary. They could contract with one large provider and cut everyone else out. That would affect access."
Providers also have all the concerns they have with national competitive bidding, said Patrick Hanna, president of B&K Home Medical Services in Tiffin, Ohio.
"It's short-sighted and not conducive to addressing the increasing costs of health care," he said.
Providers pointed out that the state has already saved about $127 million by moving recipients to managed care over the past two years.
After providers submit comments, the state will review comments and respond to them. Then it will send the rule to the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR).
After submitting bids for national competitive bidding, provider Tom Mullaney gets tired just thinking about the state's proposal.
"The state says this is coming down from the federal government, but national competitive bidding is far from done, and it's far from being a success," said Mullaney, president of Mullaney Medical in Cincinnati.