Medicare Demo Bidders’ Meeting Reveals Many Problems Ahead

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LAST WEDNESDAY IN SAN DIEGO, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) conducted an all-day information session for laboratories interested in submitting bids to participate in the Medicare Clinical Laboratory Services Competitive Demonstration Project.

It is estimated that a crowd of 100 showed up. More listened in, using a special telephone link to the Bidders’ Conference. In what could be a portent of things to come, listeners reported that, not only did it take an hour or more into the conference before the telephone link was operational, but the sound quality was marginal and never improved.

Portent Of What’s To Come?

 From this inauspicious start, the balance of the day revealed that implementation teams from CMS and RTI International (contracted to assist CMS in the design, implementation, and evaluation of the bidding demo project) have failed in one aspect of their mission: to design the framework of a bidding process that is relatively simple, understandable, objective, and transparent to the public at every step.

This assessment does not come from THE DARK REPORT, but directly from individuals who attended the bidders’ conference and shared their impressions in the days following the conference. These individuals, without exception, expressed their disappointment at both the content of the conference and how it was conducted. Moreover, each attendee identified significant flaws in the bidding process, based on their study of the documents released by CMS and the explanations provided by representatives of CMS/RTI International over
the course of the bidders’ conference. Often, CMS and RTI representatives could not answer questions which pointed out major gaps in their implementation plan.

None of this bodes well for the laboratory industry. The federal government is about to undertake a bidding auction process that is complex, lacks obvious logic, and alarms informed experts by its potential to roil the existing and quite functional distribution network of laboratory testing services in the San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos MSA (metropolitan statistical area).

Lab directors and pathologists will have the opportunity to read plenty of information in other publications about the bidders’ conference and how CMS plans to conduct the bidding process, select winning laboratories, and implement the demonstration project. Expect to read many criticisms, involving every aspect of the demonstration project—from its fundamental design to small details affecting implementation.

Call To Action

THE DARK REPORT recommends that associations, trade groups, and industry leaders in laboratory medicine should seize the initiative to develop a sophisticated, informed criticism of the about-to-be-implemented bidding demonstration project. This policy “White Paper” should be distributed to local, state, and federal policymakers. Media contacts should be alerted, informed, and encouraged to report this story. Now that CMS and RTI have released their implementation plan, it is time for the laboratory industry to step up in a timely and professional way to deliver its message with a powerful punch! 

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