From: HME News

By Liz Beaulieu Editor

WASHINGTON – There are more questions than answers about Round 2 of competitive bidding, but that may be a good thing, HME industry stakeholders say.

The last they knew, CMS planned to announce the zip codes and product categories for Round 2 in the fall of 2010, open registration in the winter of 2010-11, accept bids in the summer of 2011 and implement the program Jan. 1, 2013. But so far, the agency has been “strangely quiet” about the next step in the program, they say.

“I think it’s good that they haven’t finalized that information,” said Seth Johnson, vice president of government affairs for Pride Mobility Products. “Hopefully, what they’re doing is a thorough review of the outcomes of Round 1, making sure, before they expand the program, that all the processes and procedures are in place to ensure positive outcomes.”

All stakeholders know for sure: That Congress has required CMS to start working on Round 2 some time this year in 91 metropolitan statistical areas.

Stakeholders hope CMS is taking its time to, among other things, improve its outreach efforts to referral sources and beneficiaries.

“That’s always been an issue–what happens when they spread out the program to all of these additional areas,” said Peter Amico, a member of CMS’s Program Advisory and Oversight Committee (PAOC) for competitive bidding and the owner of Prime Care Medical Supplies in Holtsville, N.Y. “All the problems with Round 1, with doctors and patients being confused and misled–I hope CMS is trying to resolve those issues before Round 2 takes effect.”

Laurence Wilson, director of the chronic care policy group at CMS, told Wayne Stanfield, executive director of NAIMES, last week that “there was still some work to do” for Round 2.

“Those were his words,” Stanfield said. “He was non-committal about specifics, but he said that Round 2 would be going forward later this year.”

There may be work to do, but stakeholders don’t expect CMS to overhaul the program for Round 2.

“I think they may put manual wheelchairs in there–whether it’s in addition to power wheelchairs or a substitute for them, I don’t know, but my suspicion is that they’ll be in there,” said Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare. “Other than that, I suspect close to zero changes, because they’re telling everyone it’s such a wonderful program.”