PAMS Response to Washington Post Editorial on Competitive Bidding

The Washington Post ran an editorial in the paper’s Sunday edition on June 16th encouraging CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner to implement the Round 2 program.

The Article can be viewed at www.washingtonpost.com. PAMS Executive Director, John Shirvinsky, posted the following response to the editorial on the Post website:

We understand that reporters and editorial writers covering the Washington beat feel compelled to give the benefit of the doubt to the bureaucrats who control the flow of information so critical to your jobs. But it might be a good idea to give your readers the benefit of at least a little bit of fact checking beyond the spin doctors who inhabit those agencies.

In the case of your June 16 editorial, “Medicare changes must be implemented now,” the Post gets just about every critical fact wrong. On the bright side, I am sure that your sources at the Centers for Medicare Services (CMS) were very pleased that you adhered so closely to their talking points.

Just about every expert in the field of auction design is aghast at the fact that CMS managed to get wrong just about every critical design element for their competitive bidding program for durable medical equipment and supplies. As if that weren’t bad enough, CMS then ignored its own bid rules in order to allow non-compliant, low-ball bidders into the process so that they could manipulate bid results to suit their own ends. And the press guardians at the Post simply dismiss incompetence and wrongdoing as “procedural irregularities.”

The fact is that just about everybody agrees that a dose of market-based competition would be a good thing for getting the price of medical equipment right in the Medicare program. But in order to do that, the program must be properly designed and it must observe the highest standards for public integrity.

The current Medicare bid program fails on both counts. Your readers deserve to know what a properly designed program would look like. I’m sure that they already appreciate that transparency trumps secrecy in programs that spend public funds.

If you haven’t contacted your congressional representative yet, now is the time. Emplore them to support H.R. 2375, which will direct CMS to revisit the design of the competitive bidding program and delay Round 2 implementation.

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