You are not alone

Sunday, January 23, 2011

It all started with an e-mail from one of our readers. It went something like this: Can’t HME News help the industry collect and report on problems that will occur as a result of competitive bidding?

The reader’s idea: Identify a provider in each of the nine competitive bidding areas (CBAs) and check in with that provider on a regular basis to record how the program unfolds.

It’s a good idea, but it’s a little more than three editors can handle, even if one of those editors is Executive Editor Mike “The Vortex” Moran. After all, competitive bidding isn’t the only issue providers are facing, especially providers who aren’t in the first nine CBAs. For them, more immediate concerns include increasingly demanding documentation requirements, non-stop audits and the elimination of the first-month purchase option for standard power wheelchairs.

Still, the idea stuck with us. Considering that competitive bidding is the biggest thing to hit the industry in, oh, at least a decade, maybe ever, we knew we had to step up our game. In addition to writing stories on competitive bidding like those featured in the February issue—and there are about a half-dozen, including three on the front page—we wanted, and knew we needed, to do more.

Hence, the first installment of “The competitive bidding chronicles” (See next page).

Each month, Contributing Editor Jennifer Keirn will check in with providers Sam Jarczynski, who is a contract supplier for sleep products in the Orlando CBA; and John Reed, who is not a contract supplier in the Cincinnati CBA. Keirn’s goal: To provide a first-person account of the impact of competitive bidding on their businesses, referral sources and patients.

For this first installment, Keirn interviewed Jarczynski and Reed just as competitive bidding was getting up and running in January, and both providers were brimming with uncertainty. Jarczynski may be a contract supplier, but he wasn’t actively marketing his services to referral sources because he doesn’t want to waste his time and money if the program is, once again, stalled or repealed.

As a non-contract supplier, Reed still doesn’t know whether to subcontract, acquire a contract supplier or diversify his product line.

Both Jarczynski and Reed are placing their bets on competitive bidding, in its current form, not lasting very long.

I don’t know about you, but after reading this first installment, I want to know more. For Jarczynski: Without any marketing, is he getting any calls from referral sources? If so, do referral sources seem educated about the program? Has he been able to provide reasonable products and services at the competitive bidding rates? Has he changed his mind about his wait-and-see approach?

For Reed: How’s grandfathering going? Is it confusing for him and his patients? Has he decided yet whether to subcontract, make an acquisition or diversify his product lines? What’s it been like living without 40% of his business (Medicare) and making do with a downsized staff?

Turn to upcoming issues to find the answers to these questions and more.

Whatever does (or doesn’t) happen with competitive bidding, these accounts will provide a record, something that providers can,  in a few years, re-read and say, “Remember when…”

Reed told me: It’s like when you have a child and as he or she gets older, you always look back and wish you had taken more pictures. That’s why he agreed to participate; he wants the industry to have a record. For that, we should all thank Reed and Jarczynski not only for participating but also for being so forthcoming.

At the very least, we hope these first-person accounts will provide comfort that, whether you’re a contract supplier or a non-contract supplier, you are not alone.