Providers sound off

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

YARMOUTH, Maine - As rehab providers dug through national competitive bidding pricing for standard and complex power wheelchairs, not everything they were seeing and hearing made sense.
Staffing snafu?
Not all winning bidders in the complex power wheelchair category have ATSs on staff, numerous providers complained. By April 1, 2008, providers had to have at least one ATS on staff to provide certain complex power wheelchairs.
Winning bidders without ATSs plan to find subcontractors to fill their complex power wheelchair orders or "steal" ATSs from other providers, one provider predicted.
"I know of two companies who got complex rehab bids in our area who don't have ATSs on staff," said a winning bidder with ATSs on staff. "I'm not calling sour grapes, because it may be fine, but we've had to clean up their messes in the past, and I suspect we're going to have to continue doing so."
No experience required?
Not all winning bidders in the standard and complex rehab power wheelchair categories even have past experience providing the equipment, numerous providers complained. They told stories of established providers losing bids to "these little pharmacies down the road."
Although providers suspect winning bidders without experience will try to find subcontractors, that won't be easy.
"I find it hard to believe that they're going to find someone to contract with because there just isn't enough profit," one provider said.
Pricing puzzle?
Numerous providers pointed out the striking similarity in pricing for certain power wheelchairs across competitive bidding areas (CBAs). For example, for K0861, a complex power wheelchair (standard with multiple-power option), reimbursement is $454.50 or $454.51 in five of the 10 CBAs.
"That just looks weird," one provider said. "How can different regions have the same bid price for the same product-to the penny?" HME