Editor’s Note:  CMS’ claim ignores everything from the complaints of Medicare beneficiaries to the warning of academicians to common sense.

From: Home Care Magazine

Competitive Bidding Still Going ‘Smoothly,’ CMS Repeats

BALTIMORE — At an April 5 meeting of the Program Advisory and Oversight Committee, CMS officials gave what industry attendees described as a rosy picture of competitive bidding since its January implementation in nine MSAs. According to CMS’ Michael Keane, that’s still the case.

“The program continues to go very smoothly with few inquiries and complaints and no evidence of negative beneficiary health outcomes or negative adverse impacts (such as increases in hospitalizations or emergency room visits),” Keane wrote in a June 17 letter to PAOC members.

He also said that the goal of ensuring multiple suppliers and beneficiary choice under the program “has been met consistently with no need to add additional contract suppliers.”

Keane, director of CMS’ Chronic Care Policy Group, wrote the letter in response to some PAOC members who requested additional data on Round 1 of the bidding program following the April meeting. In a May 6 letter, a dozen of the 17 committee members asked for updates on the percentage of beneficiaries using DME, the number of contract suppliers that had closed or been added since Jan. 1 and specific information on the mail-order diabetic supplies category.

They also asked for clarification on the number of calls to Medicare’s help line about competitive bidding.

Keane’s letter didn’t address all of the requests (or other industry advocates’ concerns on how CMS classifies “complaints” about the bidding program). It did include highlights for 1-800-MEDICARE from January through March showing that of 6,596,669 total calls, less than 0.9 percent — 57,530 — were related to competitive bidding, with the number of those calls “continuing to decrease weekly.”

According to the CMS data:

• Nearly 70 percent (39,492) of the competitive bidding inquiries were general questions that did not relate to specific products. The top questions were:

 

  • “Can I have a list of suppliers that can be used?”
  • “Can I continue to use my supplier/need to change?” and
  • “How does competitive bidding affect me?”

 

• About 30 percent (18,038) of the competitive bidding inquiries were about specific product categories. Of those, about 75 percent (13,813) were about mail-order diabetic supplies.

In their letter, the PAOC members noted that when competitive bidding expands to 91 additional areas, “CMS can anticipate a dramatic increase in queries, totaling more than one million additional calls in less than a three-month period following implementation of Round Two.”

Keane’s response said data from CMS’ real-time claims monitoring that had been relayed at the PAOC meeting would be posted on its website soon and then would be updated monthly.

“We expect to be able to make the information for the first calendar quarter of 2011 available within the next two weeks,” he wrote, adding, “We believe more complete information will provide the public a more useful window to emerging trends in this area.”

As of Friday, H.R. 1041, which would repeal the bidding program, had 133 cosponsors.