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PAOC fades to black

PAOC fades to black

BALTIMORE - The Program Advisory and Oversight Committee (PAOC), quietly disbanded Dec. 31, and committee members had mixed feelings about its legacy.

"I think there could have been much better opportunity between the (home medical equipment) industry and regulators on a program of this magnitude and importance," said Walt Gorski, vice president of government affairs for AAHomecare and PAOC member. "I think many PAOC members felt their hands were tied in making rational recommendations."

The 17-member PAOC, comprised of HME providers, physicians, manufacturers and consumers, originally formed under the Medicare Modernization Act to advise CMS on implementing the competitive bidding program. It was extended by two years--until Dec. 31, 2011--under the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act, which passed in July 2008.

While the original intent of the PAOC was to advise CMS, in reality, the agency didn't make it easy. The biggest sticking point: a lack of transparency, especially once Round 1 kicked off.

"CMS sees a lot of data that either substantiates or refutes the criticisms that were made about the program," said Gorski. "I don't understand why they are not willing to show the results of what they are seeing."

That lack of data, in turn, prevented the committee from being able to suggest changes to program so that it would have less devastating effects on providers and beneficiaries, he said.

The PAOC last met in April. Members requested to meet with CMS several times this fall, but got no response, said PAOC member Tom Milam. Still, he does feel the committee made some headway.

"I do think that behind the scenes some of our comments did move some of the rules in a better way," he said. "I think some of that will keep CMS accountable for more than just a low price. It will keep CMS accountable in the end for access and quality and service."


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