Editor's Note

Time for Action

HMEs need to go on the anti-NCB offensive.

For the past several years, the industry has been in a constant state of reaction to CMS’s national competitive bidding program. First we reacted to the program tests. Then we reacted to bidding of Round One. Then we reacted to the fallout of those bids. Then we reacted to the re-bid. I say it’s time for CMS to react.

Now that Round One has gone into effect it is time for providers and the industry to go into public awareness overdrive and publicize every single flaw that comes up in the program’s nine competitive bidding areas.

Already, the industry has set up two web sites where providers can catalog any problems that come up in their CBA:

VGM, with support from NAIMES, CSIHME, AMEPA and others, launched competitivebiddingconcerns.com to collect providers’ reports of problems with bids during the re-bid of Round One of competitive bidding. VGM will share the reports with the submitters, too.

The American Association for Homecare is also calling on providers and other HME industry stakeholders to submit reports of problematic bids and bid winners to its website. The association is urging HME providers, their patients and family members, and referral sources to report such problems via its website at www.aahomecare.org, where they will find custom forms for each stakeholder.

Déjà vu All Over Again

And make no mistake — there will be problems. HME providers weren’t just acting like Chicken Little when they criticized the program during 2008/2009’s bidding, and the same holds true for the re-bid.

Already, we know that CMS was anything but transparent with the bid winners. Now we’ve come to find that a significant portion of them are suffering from credit issues, and at least in Orlando the majority of them are not local providers. (Read “News, Trends & Analysis,” starting page 8, to learn more.)

Also, AAHomecare reported that its online reporting tools had gathered “a growing body of evidence” of bankrupt bid winners; errors on the Medicare.gov website providing misinformation to beneficiaries; materials sent to beneficiaries outside of the nine CBAs instructing them to switch to contract providers; bid winners without required state licensure; and long-distance providers among bid winners.

Is all this starting to sound like the first attempt at Round One? It should. And that is exactly why providers need to put the pressure on CMS through media outreach efforts. And I emphasize the word “providers.” Do not wait on your state or national association to do the work for you.

Each and every affected provider should not only report problems via VGM’s and AAHomecare’s special web pages; they should launch a full frontal assault on every one of their local media outlets.

If you haven’t already, make a list of the print reports and TV and radio news producers in your area and keep them on an e-mail list and speeddial. Call them up, tell them about the program, that it has been implemented, that it will result in serious problems for their audiences, and that you are going to give them a heads up when problems arise. Help them get the scoop and help their readers, viewers and listeners to fight back.

And don’t forget new media. If you have local bloggers that are focused on patient or related issues, make sure you reach out to them and keep them in the loop. Likewise, make sure to highlight problems in any local social network venues. If there are Facebook groups or pages or Twitter feeds related to local patient issues or politics, make sure to chime in with timely wall posts and tweets to drive local awareness.

And I do mean local. Let the associations focus on national media. Regardless of his politics, you have to agree that long-time Speaker of the House was on the money when he said “All politics is local.” If you start a strong enough fire at home, it will set Capitol Hill ablaze with political action.

This article originally appeared in the January 2011 issue of HME Business.

About the Author

David Kopf is the Publisher and Executive Editor of HME Business and DME Pharmacy magazines. Follow him on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/dkopf/ and on Twitter at @postacutenews.

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