Count the bids

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11/06/2020

The big news story right now is the election and the herculean efforts by various states to count the unprecedented number of absentee and mail-in ballots, a task that stretched out well beyond the Nov. 3 vote.

The chants – count the votes by some, and stop the count by others – got me to thinking about CMS’s recent decision to drop 13 product categories from Round 2021 of competitive bidding.

When the news broke, there was a first wave of relief – the industry had been lobbying CMS to pause Round 2021 due to the current public health emergency and, in essence, this did just that for everything but off-the-shelf knee and back braces.

But then there was a second wave – of aggravation. CMS decided not to move forward with the new SPAs because they came out higher than the previous SPAs – previous SPAs that were set using an unfair bid process that has since been modified.

The agency’s exact words: “CMS is not awarding competitive bidding contracts for any of the 13 product categories for Round 2021 that were previously competed because the payment amounts did not achieve expected savings.”

When my thoughts about voting and bidding collided, I found myself chanting, count the bids, count the bids.

Which brought me back to some of the initial reactions to CMS’s announcement on twitter. “This is prime 2020 absurdity,” tweeted Tyler Riddle, a provider in Georgia. “CMS acknowledged the program needed reform and now they are admitting that their reform resulted in higher pricing. Doesn’t the law state the bidding program MUST be followed and implemented?!”

It turns out the law allows CMS to abstain from moving forward with the program if it doesn’t achieve savings, according to stakeholders, so there won't be any lawsuits trying to force the agency to implement the Round 2021 single payment amounts for those 13 product categories.

But there are plans to try and hold CMS accountable for them.

Tom Ryan, AAHomecare’s president and CEO, wrote in Nov. 4 bulletin to members: “In a call with CMS leaders this morning, I asked the agency to provide transparency on these results on the 13 product categories were bid. That information will be important to our work to advocate for sustainable rates and relief in the near-term and beyond.”

Managing Editor Theresa Flaherty’s with you Tom Ryan. She suggested we file a Freedom of Information Act request for those single payments amounts when CMS made its announcement on Oct. 27 and formally file a request we did on Nov. 3.

At the end of the day, the bids providers submitted for 13 product categories as part of Round 2021 may not be litigated but they won’t be wasted.

Count the bids.