Lawmakers call for probe of Medicare bidding program
U.S. Reps. Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.) and Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) want HHS Inspector General Daniel Levinson to investigate the implementation of the second round of Medicare’s competitive-bidding program for durable medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics and supplies. Thompson and Braley previously rounded up 227 House members from both parties to sign a letter asking CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner to hold off on the July 1 launch because of problems with the execution. “We believe that competitive bidding can work, but only with significant changes,” they wrote in their request to Levinson. The lawmakers also pointed to improper vetting of suppliers, a lack of transparency, the absence of binding bids during the contract process, and violations of state licensure and accreditation requirements affecting bids, particularly in Ohio, Maryland, Michigan and Tennessee. Tavenner has conceded that the CMS awarded contracts to approximately 30 suppliers (out of 98 total) that did not meet Tennessee licensing requirements. Tavenner told Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) that those contracts would be voided but that “given the large number of in-state suppliers … (the CMS is) confident that beneficiaries will continue to have access to a wide variety of quality items and services in the state.” Thompson and Braley, though, argue that those 30 suppliers undermined the payment set by the bidding process.