Stakeholders beat the bushes on bidding
WASHINGTON – With Round 2 inching closer, HME industry stakeholders last week trekked to Washington, D.C., to talk up competitive bidding’s flaws and the market-pricing program (MPP).
“It’s an uphill fight, but the response we got from every meeting was very positive,” said Wayne Stanfield, president and CEO of NAIMES, which spearheaded the event. “Many of the people I spoke with are not happy with what CMS is doing and how it’s doing it.”
Industry stakeholders conducted about 250 meetings Feb. 26-27, they say.
Many of those meetings focused on key members of several powerful committees including Senate Finance, and House Ways & Means and Energy & Commerce.
“We had some great meetings with Baucus, Tester, Harkin—they get it,” said John Gallagher, vice president of government relations for The VGM Group. “There’s a particular realization from rural states about the impact on diabetics on July 1.”
As part of a national mail-order program, CMS will cut reimbursement rates for diabetes testing supplies, on average, by 72%.
Lawmakers last week were also questioning how much money CMS is actually saving through competitive bidding and whether or not the agency is following its own guidelines for the program.
“There is something wrong with the process when suppliers can be offered contracts that they do not seem qualified to meet,” said Stanfield.
Overhanging last week’s events: a probable across-the-board cut of 2% for all Medicare fee-for-service providers as part of automatic spending cuts. Although, at press time, top lawmakers were meeting with President Obama, it was looking more and more likely that the cuts would go into effect by day’s end on March 1.
For providers, the big question is whether those cuts will affect contract holders in the nine Round 1 competitive bidding areas, where reimbursement has already been reduced, on average, 32%.
“Their rates are contractually set, but it’s unclear if those rates are going to be reduced by 2% as well,” said Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare. “It’s also unclear what it means for Round 2. CMS has not been able to say.”