CMS, recently, made a notable exception to the bidding program. Despite the agency’s claims that the bidding program has not harmed patients, the unintended consequences of implementing the program in the Honolulu bidding area have been disastrous.
Only 13 of the 97 providers selected are located in the state of Hawaii. There is no same day or overnight express shipping option to Hawaii, so mainland providers servicing oxygen, continual feeding, and other life-sustaining equipment cannot get equipment or replacement parts to the islands faster than 2-4 days. The typical wait time for a physician-ordered Medicare hospital bed or wheelchair is 4-8 weeks.
On top of this, contract winners on the U.S. mainland have not been able to subcontract with local providers because the prices are below the cost of supplying equipment once shipping costs are taken into account.
The Healthcare Association of Hawaii (HAH), a member of AAHomecare’s State Leaders Council, and the Hawaiian congressional delegation were able to convince CMS of the severity of these problems. In response, the agency has awarded contracts to Aloha Medical and American Home Care Systems, both of which are local providers physically located on the island of Oahu.
“We appreciate that CMS has taken a positive step to help to remove barriers to access to care in Hawaii. We thank our congressional delegation, with Senator Mazie Hirono as the lead, the CBIC liaison, Palmetto GBA, and AAHomecare for their due diligence and attention to this important matter,” said George W. Greene, Esq., HAH president and CEO. “However, the logistics and cost of business in the middle of the Pacific Ocean still make the DME Competitive Bidding Program unsustainable in this island state. We urge CMS to take further action to stop the negative and compounding impacts of the program on the entire healthcare system in Hawaii.”
One of the reasons CMS stated for awarding these two contracts was to “ensure beneficiary access to the necessary items and services in the Standard Wheelchairs (Power and Manual) product category.”
HAH continues to work to reduce the significant barriers to equipment and services on account of the bidding program including introducing a bill in the Hawaii legislature this year that would require all DME providers to have a physical presence in the state.