And they're off! CMS Opens Competitive Bidding
The race is on. After weeks of speculation about when it would happen, Medicare last week finally opened DME competitive bidding. Providers now face two make-or-break deadlines this summer: by July 13, they must choose the categories to compete in and submit their bids to CMS; and Aug. 31 is the deadline for DMEs to become accredited if they are in one of the first 10 accreditation-rollout cities.
DMEs across the country anxiously awaited CMS' Final Rule on competitive bidding before the agency published it on April 2. The run-up to that milestone was rife with rumors, hearsay, speculation, and a good deal of misinformation. Even as it was still digesting the idea of mass accreditation in just six months, the industry turned its anxiety toward the date CMS would declare itself open to receive bids.
Some saw the combination of the delay and rumblings of congressional concern about competitive bidding as reason to hope the program might be abandoned, or at least delayed. The so-called Tanner-Hobson bill, which would let unsuccessful bidders continue serving Medicare beneficiaries, was joined by another bill introduced just last week that would exempt complex rehab from competitive bidding.
No such luck. At least not yet.
June McCarthy got the news about CMS opening bidding as she and her staff at Affordable Medical Supply in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., were racing to distribute H tanks to their oxygen patients. "I picked my throat up from my big toes," McCarthy said about her reaction to finally seeing the announcement. "My first thought was fear. We all knew it was coming, but now that it's here, it just adds to the anxiety."
McCarthy finds the combination of hurricane-season preparation, accreditation, the everyday operation of her business, and, now, competitive bidding, almost overwhelming. "They opened bidding and gave us the bid deadline at the same time. We have two months," she said.
"We've been in business more than 25 years, and we're very proud of how well we serve our patients. Now we've got two months to prove it, and we only get one chance. This is our whole future and the whole future for everybody who works for us."
Providers must have applied for accreditation before submitting bids, and they must be accredited to win. All bids are due by 9 p.m. prevailing Eastern Time on July 13. If you're looking for resources on competitive bidding, stop first at CMS' information portal: www.dmecompetitivebid.com.
You'll find a supplier tool kit, fact sheets, a Webcast, and FAQs.
This article originally appeared in the May 2007 issue of HME Business.