Accreditation Round-Up

For suppliers involved in the first wave of competitive bidding and scrambling to meet accreditation deadlines, CMS just issued a two-month extension to do so. Suppliers must be accredited or be pending accreditation to submit a bid and will need to be accredited to be awarded a contract. The accreditation deadline for the first round of competitive bidding was originally Aug. 31, 2007, now the deadline is Oct. 31, 2007.

If you've dodged the initial CMS bullet and live elsewhere, you still have some time — no one knows how much, of course — to get accredited. To help you get started, here are the essentials that you need to head down the path to accreditation.

What it is: Accreditation is one part of an effort by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to implement reforms passed by Congress in the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 (MMA), which aim to rein-in the rate of Medicare spending growth and weed out fraud and abuse.

To be accredited and eligible for Medicare Part B reimbursement, you must convince an approved accreditating body (see below) that your business will satisfy CMS' quality and consumer-service standards for DMEs. The entire quality-standards document is here:

How to get accredited: The first step is to choose an accreditor. A list of CMS-approved accreditors is here:

Each accreditor has its own customized processes, but there are several steps that are common to all. Your accreditor will ask you to initiate an assessment of your business by comparing your practices to CMS' quality standards. If what you do in financial record keeping or inventory tracking, for example, diverges from what CMS says you should do, you'll have to make changes.

Accreditors differ in how much up-front help they give you to get ready for completing your accreditation application and preparing for the onsite survey that comes later. Because of this and the complexity of compliance, some DMEs choose to retain accreditation consultants who specialize in aligning DMEs' businesses with CMS' quality standards.

The actual application comes next. In it, you present an in-depth picture of your business and provide documentation that you are quality-standards compliant. Accreditors can ask for changes or for more information. Once your application is accepted, the accreditor will assign you a window of time during which their team will drop in for an unannounced visit called an on-site survey. No, they won't call and let you know they reached their hotel safely, thank you. They'll just show up and look at everything and talk with everyone, including clients. So long as what they see and hear tracks with the standards and your portrayal of your business practices in your application, you can relax.

This article originally appeared in the July 2007 issue of HME Business.

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