School of hard knocks

Providers offer bidding education through many channels
Wednesday, July 3, 2013

YARMOUTH, Maine – From low-tech mailings to high-tech QR codes, HME providers say they’ve done what CMS hasn’t—educate beneficiaries and referral sources about Round 2 of the competitive bidding program.

“We knew when there were problems they were going to call us, anyway, so we figured we might as well teach them now rather than put out fires all month,” said Gary Sheehan, president and CEO of Sandwich, Mass.-based Cape Medical Supply.

Cape Medical Supply, a contract supplier for several product categories in three competitive bid areas (CBAs), has added a competitive bidding page to its website. It includes a program overview, links for healthcare professionals and patients/caregivers, and a look up tool that explains how to use Medicare’s online supplier directory. 

Users can even scan QR codes with their smart phones to link directly to Cape Medical Supply’s page or to

“Teaching people how to use the supplier directory has been the most successful,” said Sheehan. “We deal with a lot of facilities that aren’t located in CBAs but discharge patients into CBAs, and there was a lot of confusion. A lot of them entered their own zip codes and thought they were in the clear.”

Provider Mike Bailey has included a competitive bidding flyer with order shipments for several months. In June, he also hosted a daylong seminar that allowed healthcare professionals to drop in at their convenience to learn what to expect from competitive bidding, who the contract suppliers are, and why his company declined an oxygen contract. It drew more than 100 attendees.

“These are really valued business partners and they are not going to understand unless we tell them why we have to tell them ‘no’ July 1,” said Bailey, CEO of Saint Paul, Minn.-based Handi Medical Supply. “We’ve also been asked to do this at specific clinics and other sites.”

Provider Carter Fuller says the in-services on competitive bidding that Professional Respiratory & Medical has held at hospitals and physician offices have been eye opening. The provider accepted several contracts in two CBAs.

“You get a deer in the headlights look,” said Fuller, vice president of business development. “We are trying to simplify it and keep it straightforward for everyone, but these folks have no idea what’s coming.”

While providers say they stand ready to service contracts or transition patients, make no mistake: They don’t support competitive bidding in its current form. They have all included contact information in their educational materials for beneficiaries to log complaints and they plan to track problems themselves.

“If things march on as is, there’s going to be some serious ramifications with beneficiaries and referral sources,” said Fuller.