FAMES, state meet before court date

Friday, May 31, 2002

TALLAHASEE, Fla. - The Florida Association of Medical Equipment Services (FAMES) met numerous times with state officials last month, trying to strike a deal to wipe out the Medicaid competitive bidding project and avoid a costly legal struggle.

"Anytime you go to court it costs money, and we're both trying to avoid that. So far, it hasn't been working," said FAMES President Joan Cross at press time.

The two sides were scheduled to meet in court June 3.

FAMES had been lobbying legislators to stop the competitive bidding project for oxygen equipment and supplies and hospital beds, but legislators have since told the association to take up their cause with the Agency for Healthcare Administration (AHCA), which administers Medicaid.

Cross said FAMES has proposed an across-the-board cut of 4% - then 5% - as an alternative to competitive bidding. It's a deal the association has proposed all along (since the idea of competitive bidding first surfaced here), and it's a deal AHCA originally agreed to and then reneged on, she said.

"This is supposed to be a budget issue, but it's not turning out to be," Cross said. "The 5% cut would give them the $1.8 million they want - maybe more - and they're still saying it's not enough. You'd think they'd be a little more receptive."

If AHCA doesn't bite, things don't look promising for most providers, Cross said. Not only will one provider service each region, they'll service it at rates much lower than today's. FAMES got its hand on the bids submitted for the project, and the bids on some items represent 20% markdowns, she said.

"For all the items, it's probably about a 7% markdown, but when you consider providers are only looking at a 12% markup, I don't know how we're supposed to do it," she said. "We're already one of the lowest paid Medicaid states in the country."

Industry sources say 19 providers placed bids in the competitive bidding project. Rotech and Lincare bid to service the most number of regions, with Rotech bidding for all regions and Lincare bidding for all but one, they say. HME