Competitive Bidding Halted
United States District Judge Thomas J. Whelan has granted a preliminary injunction blocking implementation of the competitive bidding demonstration project in the San Diego Area.
Here is an excerpt from a CLMA e-mail alert:
This is a huge victory for Medicare patients in San Diego, the three plaintiffs in the case, and the entire laboratory profession.
The original lawsuit was filed by Sharp HealthCare, Scripps Health and Internist Laboratory of Oceanside against U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Michael Leavitt on January 29, 2008.
CMS had already accepted bids on laboratory services and was about to announce bid winners on April 11, 2008. Judge Whelan's order means CMS cannot proceed with implementation of the demonstration project in San Diego, cannot announce the winning bidders on April 11, 2008, and cannot disclose information on any bids submitted.
The injunction will stay in place until further order of the court, which likely means until there is a full trial on the merits of the case. Further, the judge agreed that the plaintiffs had shown irreparable harm and found there was substantial economic injury to the laboratories and to patients. He also noted that hospital laboratories would have to set up costly procedures to determine which tests were included in the demonstration and which tests were not.
The judge agreed that the balance of hardships falls "sharply" in favor of the plaintiffs and finds that the laboratories are likely to succeed on the merits of the case. He agreed that the HHS Secretary should have gone through rulemaking, that the Secretary incorrectly interpreted the definition of "face-to-face encounter," and that specimen collection should not have been included in the demonstration because it is not a laboratory test.
Although the order will likely only delay implementation for a matter of months, the decision allows valuable time for Congress to provide a permanent solution with legislation to permanently repeal the competitive bidding demonstration project.
Don't let this major victory go to waste! Please immediately contact your Senators and Representative and urge them to co-sponsor legislation to repeal the competitive bidding demonstration project and permanently stop CMS from implementing it.