Stakeholders unimpressed with CMS education efforts

Monday, September 24, 2012

WASHINGTON – Eighteen months into the competitive bidding program, stakeholders say beneficiaries and doctors still have little knowledge of the program. 

“Nobody knows about it,” said John Shirvinsky, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of Medical Suppliers. “They really don’t do a good job of educating anyone.”

That includes CMS’s own employees, according to a study released in August commissioned by The VGM Group’s Last Chance for Patient Choice. Hogan-Hansen PC, an accounting firm, placed 100 calls to the CMS help line. It found that 96% of the time, help line employees said zip codes in Round 2 areas wouldn’t be affected by competitive bidding. 

“How can you not have those zip codes in front of you?” said John Gallagher, vice president of government relations for The VGM Group.

Other education efforts, like letters to physician offices, don’t do the trick, he says. 

“That letter doesn’t get read by the doctor—it goes to the gatekeeper, who sees it’s not a bill, it’s a standard form letter and sets it aside,” said Gallagher. 

It’s not any better when you talk to beneficiaries, says Kelly Turner, executive director of People for Quality Care. She travels the country to talk to beneficiaries about the program’s impact.

“We ask all of them if they were contacted by Medicare prior to competitive bidding,” said Turner. “None of them had received anything from Medicare.”

Poor communication between CMS and beneficiaries puts patients at risk, Shirvinsky says.

“CMS is not getting a true picture of what’s going on,” he said. “People aren’t getting the equipment that they need because it’s too difficult to get.”