Career-ending disqualification?

 - 
Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Our bid was a simple matter. We are one of two independent DME companies in our city. I don’t know if they intended to participate or not, but our bid was simple to calculate—“one dollar under the limiting amount” in all regards bid. We bid in this manner because we are a small company. Since we are an independent local company, the rules say CMS will offer local vendors 20% of the business. There are only two of us left after competitive bidding forced the closure of all the other independents (there were 17 when I started). Our small company won’t alter the capacity of the city—the nationals will rule price, etc. We are simply hoping to be offered some contracts to keep on going in business. The prices would have never been determined by our bids/capacity. So we were waiting to be told, “Here’s your contract—deal or no deal.”

We are a small family/RT owned and operated company of 20 years serving Southern Arizona. We employ 15 personnel, offering full line DME to CMS, insurance contractors and hospice providers. We have been a provider to CMS since our original opening in 1991. We have struggled through all the changes this has brought our way and we were looking forward to this change of 2021. Maybe finally this would become a sustainable program again. We have served many families with a tremendous customer loyalty. Many of these families are old friends as we are hometown locals.

Our error and sudden catastrophe? My wife prepared our bid documents for transmission to the CMS. In this process, she mislabeled one of the document files as “SURETY BOND,” but actually it was our personal W-2s for the year, which she had sent to our accountant. The bond file was right below the one she mislabeled.

We secured our bond well in time, paid in full and all other documents were correct and appropriate. This one file was mislabeled. As such, it was placed in the package and uploaded. This was done before the deadline. No notices, no comments, no calls, no “you need to submit” notice, etc. We believed we were done and awaiting contract notices.

What we got was a notice of disqualification. She immediately reviewed all documents, found the “error,” sent the bond document, as well as a screen shot showing the error to illustrate that we were in compliance, we simply mislabeled the file. A minor mistake! Not so to CMS, which stated that there is no recourse—we are disqualified. This irrevocable decision seems highly unreasonable, in my opinion. We have provided decades of excellent services and met all of the many requirements CMS has put forth. We are both 68 years of age, so waiting three years to try again is not in the program. There are no “do-overs.” This will close our company. It’s just the wrong decision. Simple mistakes do happen.

So I come to you my fellow DME companies, owners, representatives, CMS officials or anyone reading this situation who is involved in this program, to please help us any way you can—phone, mail, official intervention, official reconsideration. Please assist us in getting this harsh decision that is ending our DME careers reversed. It was a simple mistake. Correcting this will make a significant difference to us and those we serve— none to the program, as a whole.

Who we are as the owners: We are native Tucsonans. I’m a high school dropout, a Vietnam combat vet and first born of an immigrant who became an American when I was 7. After the war, I attended and graduated college and have been a respiratory therapist of 41 years. This is what I do. This is how we have raised our family and taken care of our needs, as well as contributed to the community. Getting terminated by this disqualification is a lousy way to end all these years of work. Give us a hand please.

Bill Baker, RRT, is president of RxO2 Inc., in Tucson, Ariz.