By Shawn Rhea

Two trade associations are once again voicing concern over the CMS’ plans to enact a competitive-bidding program for suppliers of durable medical equipment.

he CMS has released a list of the winning bid prices for the first round of its Medicare Part B durable medical equipment competitive bidding program, which is set to take effect in nine markets on Jan. 1, 2011. The winning bids are expected to save more than $17 billion over 10 years, according to the CMS. But the American Association for Homecare in a news release criticized the winning bid prices, saying they would “translate into unsustainable reimbursement rates for homecare providers.”

The National Community Pharmacists Association, which represents small pharmacies that sell some types of durable medical equipment over the counter, also issued a news release expressing concern about the program’s forthcoming implementation. The trade group urged CMS to follow through with a proposal to exclude small community pharmacies from having to participate in and win the competitive-bidding process in order to remain eligible for Medicare reimbursement. “Inclusion of small pharmacies in the bidding program or reimbursing them at the newly announced mail order rates eventually would result in the virtual elimination of independents from the program,” NCPA officials said in the news release.

The completed first-round of the CMS competitive-bidding program was a rebid of an earlier process conducted in 2008. The agency last year scrapped the initial bids awards after lawmakers, at the behest of suppliers, required changes in the process to help ensure small businesses would not be locked out of effectively competing for contracts.

CMS said it will announce the names of the winning suppliers in September. The first round of the program will take effect in Charlotte, N.C.; Cincinnati, Ohio; Cleveland; Dallas; Kansas City, Mo.; Miami; Orlando, Fla.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; and Riverside, Calif.