Rule resurrects competitive bidding

Saturday, January 31, 2009

WASHINGTON--Days before the new administration took office, CMS released an interim final rule on national competitive bidding Jan. 16 that does little to improve the controversial program, industry stakeholders say.

“There’s nothing in the rule that gives us reason to believe that the revised Round 1 of competitive bidding will be any different than the initial Round 1,” said Seth Johnson, vice president of government affairs for Pride Mobility Products.

The rule, which goes into effect Feb. 16, sets the stage for CMS to re-implement the program, possibly this summer. The agency will accept comments until March 17.  

The rule implements the provisions outlined in the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act (MIPPA) - a bill passed in July 2008 that delayed competitive bidding - but nothing else, industry stakeholders say. Those provisions include requiring CMS to notify providers of missing financial documentation.

That’s not enough, industry stakeholders say.

 “CMS may be within compliance of the law, but they’re outside the spirit of everything that was voiced throughout the middle of last year (when competitive bidding was delayed),” said Tyler Wilson, president of AAHomecare.

There are still numerous procedural and structural flaws with the program, industry stakeholders say.

With a rule now on the books, providers need to submit comments - sooner rather than later, since the rule goes into effect before the comment period ends - and double back with legislators who championed the industry’s cause last year, industry stakeholders say.

“Whether they’re Republicans or Democrats, this gives them a legitimate beef with CMS,” said Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare. “CMS needs to re-look at this program.”