'Zero hour' here for competitive bidding

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

ATLANTA - Sometime next year, HME providers in 10 metropolitan statistical areas will be dealing with competitive bidding for Medicare-reimbursed equipment and supplies. For them, time is growing very short.
Two speakers addressed the urgency of the issue for Medtrade attendees in separate programs in September, with healthcare attorney Denise Fletcher outlining potential scenarios over the next year, while consultant Wallace Weeks instructed providers on how to assemble a competitive bidding "toolbox."
Questions abound regarding national competitive bidding, scheduled to go into effect some time in 2007. And although CMS has a formidable amount of preparation ahead, the agency will probably make the deadline, said Fletcher, a partner with the Amarillo, Texas-based law firm Brown & Fortunato.
One of the most-asked questions about competitive bidding has to do with which MSAs will be included in the first round. That is wide open to conjecture, Fletcher said, but some are more likely than others, with Miami, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Riverside, Calif., being the top candidates. Excluded from the first round due to their enormous population bases are New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. Washington, Baltimore and other areas that straddle DMERC lines also get a first round pass, Fletcher said.
"Overall there will probably be one city each from Regions A, B and D and seven from Region C," she said. "That makes sense because they are the largest
Fletcher added, though, that companies whose MSAs are initially bypassed shouldn't relax too much.
"If you weren't chosen in the first round, get ready because you will be in the second round," she said.
Saying that "it is honorable to be profitable," Weeks, president of Melbourne, Fla.-based Weeks Group, told his session attendees that bid winners can be losers if they don't build margins into their proposals.
"Don't assume that because you won the contract that your revenues will go through the roof," he said. "A Medicare contract is nothing more than a hunting license."