WASHINGTON — The Office of Management and Budget is
allowing CMS to violate the Paperwork Reduction Act regarding the
DMEPOS competitive bidding
, according to the man who wrote the law in 1980.

Jim Tozzi of the Center for Regulatory Effectiveness, a
regulatory watchdog organization, said Wednesday the organization
had alerted the OMB to PRA violations in two of CMS' Information
Collection Requests related to the Medicare bidding program. But
the OMB ignored them.

"That was unbelievable. They were gross violations," said Tozzi,
who knows the PRA very well — he wrote it and served as
President Carter's chief lobbyist in getting the law passed 30
years ago, he said. Under the PRA, federal agencies must get OMB
approval before requesting most types of information from the

In the first request, Tozzi said CMS failed to specify how data
the agency collected would be used, nor did it include any burden
estimates for some of the reporting and record-keeping

"They are making the small [home medical equipment] providers
give all kinds of data — their financial statements … a
lot of data. And that takes them a lot of time," he said. Despite
the mandate of the PRA, CMS did not give an estimate of how much
time providers might spend doing paperwork to participate in DMEPOS
competitive bidding.

"That's really a gross violation of the PRA," said Tozzi.
"That's one of the pillars of it — you're supposed to report

The OMB gave CMS clearance on the request, he said.

The second request involved a survey that, according to the CRE,
"failed to accurately inform the public as to the purpose of the
information collection and would not accomplish the study's
statutorily mandated purpose, depriving Congress of key information
on which to make Medicare-related decisions."

The CRE asked to further the study's purpose by adding a
question to the 10-page survey, which included questions for
Medicare beneficiaries such as: "What color is your oxygen tank?"
and "Does the tube work?"

"We asked to put one question in: 'Did you change suppliers as a
result of competitive bidding?'" said Tozzi.

The request was denied.

"What is OMB doing?" an outraged Tozzi asked. "This law that
Congress passed gave OMB complete authority. It is one of the
strongest authorities that OMB has and they walked away from the
simplest thing."

HomeCare contacted the OMB about the issue, but so far
has not received a response.

Tozzi stressed this was not a CMS issue, since the OMB has the
power to force that agency to make changes.

"OMB should be held accountable," he said. "Your readers ought
to write to OMB and ask, 'Is this right? What is going on?' and
they should write their [legislators] about OMB."

Providers can read a CRE article on the issue called "Who's
Watching the Watchdogs" on the CRE home page.

Earlier this week, Waterloo, Iowa-based VGM Group also suggested
that providers contact the Small Business Administration Office of
Advocacy and ask for an investigation by emailing advocacy@sba.gov.

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