'Start over,' Shuler says

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

WASHINGTON--It was standing room only during the Feb. 11 Small Business Committee hearing on the effects of national competitive bidding on small providers.

“One of the ranking members of the committee said he attended a stimulus package hearing that didn’t have that many people,” said Beth Bowen, executive director of the North Carolina Association of Medical Equipment Services (NCAMES), which worked with Rep. Heath Shuler, D-N.C., to organize the hearing.

Shuler held a similar hearing on competitive bidding last May. The chairman of the House Small Business Subcommittee on Rural and Urban Entrepreneurship is no fan of the program

“We need to get CMS to scrap the program and start over,” he said in his opening statement at the hearing.

It was clear, based on questions asked by committee members and testimony given, that those involved believe CMS’s previous attempt at competitive bidding was a failure.

“Everyone did an outstanding job of conveying the program’s impact and their experiences going through the process in Round 1,” said Seth Johnson, vice president of government affairs for Pride Mobility Products, who attended the hearing.

Provider Gerald Sloan testified about losing the oxygen bid in the Kansas City metropolitan statistical area (MSA).

“We bid high because of the 36-month cap and lack of knowledge about where it was going,” said Sloan, owner of Lenexa, Kan.-based Progressive Medical. “Our oxygen program was eliminated.”

Bowen said the hearing should give the industry some forward momentum in getting legislation introduced to repeal competitive bidding.

“We want to see it slowed down and looked at,” she said. “Ultimately, what we are asking for is  complete elimination of the program.”