Scooter Store’s Harrison: Competitive Bidding “Disastrous” in Current Form

Doug Harrison, founder of The Scooter Store, says he is not opposed to competitive bidding if parameters are in place to ensure patient access to the DME benefit and to guarantee “market-based” bids.

The Scooter Store, a nationwide mobility dealer based in Texas, has been under fire for a week, accused by other DME suppliers and a growing list of industry organizations of supporting competitive bidding and opposing a competitive bidding carveout for complex rehab.

Invacare Corp. has announced it would no longer sell new vehicles or supplies, except for replacement parts for previously sold scooters and power chairs, to The Scooter Store. The National Registry of Rehab Technology Suppliers (NRRTS) and the National Association of Independent Medical Equipment Suppliers (NAIMES) quickly applauded Invacare’s decision, which also extends to the selling of rehab equipment through specialized Invacare divisions such as Adaptive Switch Labs and Motion Concepts.

So during a Jan. 23 interview with Mobility Management, the question is put to Harrison: If he had the power to wave a magic wand and make competitive bidding go away tomorrow -- would he do it? Or does he support competitive bidding as a valuable thing, perhaps not in its current form, but in some form?

“In its current form, it’s disastrous,” Harrison says. “I think the way (The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) have defined it and to call the current form ‘competitive bidding’ is I think being overly generous. It’s not a very competitive program.”

Harrison takes issue with the parameters CMS has put on so-called “acceptable” bids. “For it to be a free market-based bid, you can’t have the bidding agency set a market cap and say, ‘Bid anything you want to, as long as it’s less than the allowable, or we’ll throw your bid out,’” he says. “That’s pretty absurd. It’s automatically no longer a market-based bid.”

But setting his objections to the current competitive bidding program aside: Would Harrison make competitive bidding go away if he could? Or does he think it’s valuable in some form?

“As a consumer, aside from CMS-acquired products, if I’m having work done on my house or my car, I’m always going to get a couple of bids if I think I’m overpaying,” Harrison says. “Does Medicare have the right to run a true market-based competitive bid? I think Medicare has the right to make sure it gets the best price and the best product and the best services for its beneficiaries all the time in whatever way it sees fit, as long as quality is not jeopardized, as long as access to the benefit is not jeopardized. And there’s nothing in this bid program that ensures either one of those is still going to be in place.

“Am I opposed to it? I’m not opposed to it if it has the appropriate safeguards that ensure quality and access.”

The Scooter Store, headquartered in New Braunfels, Texas, recently launched a complex rehab division named Alliance Seating & Mobility.

Developing Story: Check back for updates on this topic, including more information from Doug Harrison, founder of The Scooter Store.

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