Round 2 reactions: What now?
I spent some time last week checking in with state associations, and, as you can imagine, competitive bidding was the No.1 topic of discussion.
Liz Moran at MESA plans to host a working luncheon during the association's Spring Conference Feb. 28 to brainstorm what providers’ next step should be.
“Where we are in this industry is not a good place to be,” said Moran. The brainstorming session should be a good step in making some big changes, she said. If not, “We’ll know we tried.”
Meanwhile, in West Virginia, WVMESA Executive Director Richard Stevens is worried what bidding will mean for the state’s many rural beneficiaries.
West Virginia’s terrain is so mountainous, he said, that traveling anywhere is incredibly time-consuming. He says his state has the highest percentage of elderly people in the country, and most don’t have access to public transportation. If HME providers close up shop or stop delivering, those beneficiaries are in serious trouble.
“We’ve been in contact with our representatives, and members are making appointments during the congressional recess,” he told me.
Members have been in touch with lawmakers consistently, but, so far, all they’ve gotten is a flicker of recognition when they walk in the door. “They’re familiar with us and know our concerns,” said Stevens. “But this bidding method appears like it’s going to continue.”
At MAMES, Rose Schafhauser has gotten so many calls her portable phone’s battery keeps dying.
What’s she hearing? People who weren’t offered Round 2 contracts are actually glad to be rid of the program, she said.
“It’s so expensive to bill Medicare, and then there’s the audits and the staff time to deal with audits,” she said. “People are just done. They’ve had enough.”
Providers have had time to redesign their companies to prepare for not relying on Medicare, said Schafhauser.
What’s more, Round 1 providers she’s talked to are happy to be out of the game.
“Life is so much better without having to fight with Medicare,” she said.
Still, Schafhauser worries about access issues as fed up providers give up on Medicare, or are unwillingly kicked out of the program—out of 50 calls received, almost all callers weren’t offered contracts, or just got one or two, which most don’t plan to accept.
What will that mean for HME and services?