Providers across the country are losing what patience they had left with competitive bidding as they do battle with the online application designed for them to make bids by July 13. The chorus of complaints last week ranged from the system failing to recognize passwords to unhelpful technical support staff and lost data. Representatives from Palmetto GBA, CMS’ competitive-bidding contractor, conceded the company’s system is not performing to expectation and that efforts are being made to correct the problems.
“It’s very, very frustrating,” said Frank Suess of Florida-based Pharma Supply, Inc., “The problem is that we only have another four weeks. I lost six hours worth of data yesterday. An error message came up and the program wouldn’t let me save, certify or even print the summary.”
Reports were widespread last week of front-line tech-support staff being unable to help and, in some reported cases, hanging up on providers. However, Suess and others said supervisory personnel admitted there were problems with the system and that Palmetto was working to get things back on track. The supervisor Suess spoke with couldn’t give an estimate of when the bidding application’s problems may be fixed.
The problems aren’t new. The application’s site went down for maintenance two weeks ago, but, when it came back up, the problems worsened, providers report. The problem causing the most heartburn is information loss, DMEs spend hours typing information into the application’s fields only to lose it.
Another problem, said Suess, is that the system won’t let users back up. “If you try to go back to the previous page you were working on, it doesn’t come up anymore,” Suess said, “so you really have to just sit and do one bidding area and not leave your computer. And make sure everything is correct when you do it.”
Providers say this is just their latest frustration with competitive bidding, and, despite concern on Capitol Hill and lawsuits that have been filed to postpone the program, many seem resigned that it’s out of their hands.
“There are now four weeks left, and I don’t think there will be any changes, unfortunately,” said Suess. “The government’s made up its mind that’s what they’re doing, and let’s worry about the fallout later.”