Senate opposition to comp. bidding builds

Friday, January 31, 2003

ELYRIA, Ohio - While Trent Lott’s now infamous birthday remarks reconfigured the look and the priorities of the Senate leadership last month, a welling of Senatorial interest in competitive bidding is giving the industry new grounds for hope.

In a Dec. 6 letter to Heartland Medical Equipment’s Sara Kirchoff, Sen. Christopher Bond (R-Mo.) agreed that the initiation of a competitive bidding program for DME is premature.

“It is unwise to rush to implement a national program in light of the fact that Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has instituted only two of the five currently authorized demonstration projects,” Bond wrote.

At Invacare headquarters in December, Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio) reiterated his reservations about competitive bidding to a diverse group of 50 representatives from the HME industry.

“He said competitive bidding was an unproven model,” said Dave Williams, Invacare’s director of government affairs. “He was very resolute in his opposition.”

Voinovich co-authored an October letter with three other senators who all opposed the prospect of competitive bidding made public by the Baucus-Grassley legislation.

Of even more significance, perhaps, are developments in the camp of Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.). Washington sources say the senator, who to date has been the most ardent advocate of competitive bidding in the Senate, may be softening his stance, favoring instead a continuation of the current demonstration projects. HME