Rhode Island: Providers battle bid proposal

Thursday, October 22, 2009

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – A proposal by the state Medicaid program to competitively bid DME has providers here saying “whoa.”

The state in August published a request for proposals (RFP) for medical equipment, respiratory equipment and supplies, medical supplies, and prosthetics and orthotics. The goal: one provider per category to serve the entire state.

Providers were given one week to submit questions on the RFP and about five weeks to submit bids.

Making matters worse: The state isn’t communicating with providers, they say. Typically, when the state issues an RFP, it also holds a pre-bid conference to explain the process and answer any questions providers may have.

Not this time.

“They haven’t answered or responded to our questions,” said one provider. “It feels like we are not getting any (help). This isn’t a simple process.”

Even the New England Medical Equipment Dealers Association (NEMED) has had trouble getting any answers, said Executive Director Karyn Estrella.

“When they released the RFP in August, we immediately sent a letter to the Medicaid director seeking a face-to-face meeting,” she said. “I didn’t get a response until Sept. 21.”

One provider said limiting the number of providers would hurt beneficiary access and choice.

“There’s no competition,” she said. “Those big companies that bid will provide you with one diaper. If that’s not the one you like, sorry.”

NEMED has asked members to contact their lawmakers to express concerns with the proposal. At press time, they had succeeded in getting the original bid deadline pushed to Oct. 1.