News Brief: More bureaucracy via competitive bidding?

Implementing a national Medicare competitive bidding program for medical equipment, services, and technology will require a 35% increase in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) work force, according to a report from Multinational Business Services, a Washington DC-based research firm.

The report states that a national competitive bidding program, such as the one passed in H.R. 4954, would require CMS to hire 1,626 additional full-time employees to manage the program. CMS’ current work force is approximately 4,630.

CMS Administrator Thomas Scully said at a June 12 congressional hearing on competitive bidding, "The reality is, it’s going to be extremely expensive to do . . . that if you want us to do more things and competitive bidding to save money for the trust funds, we just don’t have the capability to do it right now."

The report was commissioned by the Coalition for Access to Medical Services, Equipment and Technology (CAMSET), an Alexandria, VA-based organization with 22 consumer advocacy organizations and trade associations, which are concerned that the expansion of competitive bidding from two demonstration projects to national policy is premature. CAMSET members say that competitive bidding would undermine quality of care, restrict patients’ choice of suppliers and service providers, stifle the development of new technology, and drive suppliers out of operation.

A copy of the full report can be found at the coalition’s web site: www.protectaccess.org. Click on "reports," then scroll down to the report, Regulatory Mandates Imposed Under the New Medicare Competitive Bidding Program — Section 511 of the Medicare Modernization and Prescription Drug Act of 2002 (H.R. 4954).