Providers to Agape Medical: 'We're not going away'
RIVERSIDE, Calif. - Hell hath no fury like HME providers who claim Agape Medical failed to submit their bids on time for Round 2 of competitive bidding.
Providers are sharing their experiences and concerns with the CBIC and CMS, lawmakers, state attorneys general, and local newspapers, all in an effort to get the bid window re-opened.
Many of them also participated in a conference call on Friday.
"We're not going away," said Tina Jaspan, owner of Jaspan Medical in Jackson, Tenn.
The charges that these providers have levied against Agape Medical range from lack of communication (providers claim it took numerous phone calls and emails to get a response from the company, if they got one at all) to breach of contract (providers claim they went into DBidS in the last days of bidding, only to find out that the company had entered none or only some of their information).
One thing these providers aren't doing, at least for now: filing a lawsuit. That's because doing so would be expensive and it wouldn't give them their bids back.
"(One provider) concluded that it did not want to 'throw good money after bad,'" says Jeff Baird, chairman of the Health Care Group at Brown & Fortunato, who has heard from 17 providers who claim their bids were affected by Agape Medical.
The law firm representing Agape Medical is investigating two groups of bids that weren't submitted on time: about 100 or so bids without financial documentation or with untimely receipt of financial documentation; and bids that were incomplete. In regard to the former, the firm has supplied the CBIC with a letter from the U.S. Postal Service confirming the delays in deliveries and is waiting to hear back.
For the latter, the firm, which has reached out to about 150 providers, says it has uncovered only cases where the provider failed to submit information to Agape Medical on time.
"We haven't found a case where Agape Medical, in our opinion, has done anything incorrect in terms of processing bids," said Joseph Benincasa, an attorney with Kaplan, Kenegos & Kadin.
Even if the non-receipt or delayed receipt of financial documentation to the CBIC is resolved in some way, providers won't be satisfied, says Mark Higley, vice president of development for The VGM Group.
"We heard from one provider that, instead of sending a three- to four-page extract of their tax return, Agape sent all 120 pages," he said. "My point is, even if the bid did get in on time, it doesn't seem like they followed the basic rules of the program, (which hurts the provider's chance of being awarded a contract)."
While their ultimate goal is to get the CBIC and CMS to re-open the bid window, providers realize that's a tall order. CMS confirmed that in an email to HME News.
"CMS is aware that there have been some complaints from suppliers that hired this consulting company," a spokeswoman wrote. "CMS is not a related party in any disputes that suppliers may have with this company or any other company a supplier may have engaged for assistance with bidding and is therefore unable to comment. However, we note that it is each supplier's responsibility to submit a timely bid. Based on our preliminary review of timely bids, we are pleased with the supplier response and have no plans to reopen bidding."