A letter from 65 Reps and 14 senators requesting an extension of the bidding deadline paid dividends late Thursday when CMS extended the deadline to submit bids for the first round of competitive bidding. The new deadline is July 27 by 9 PM EDT. “Most of us are paying the price of Palmetto’s and CMS’ poor preparation,” laments one provider.

Providers around the country breathed a sigh of relief as they faced a litany of annoyances and outright problems as they tied up the loose ends that would ultimately decide whether they are able to serve Medicare beneficiaries. “We are as finished as we can be,” said Cynthia Wilson on Wednesday. As general manager of Pittsburgh-based regional provider UPMC Home Medical Equipment, Wilson completed her electronic entries by midweek and mailed her hard-copy documentation on the same day.

Like many other providers, Wilson encountered many frustrations along the way amidst a series of glitches and updates to the bidding process. “Medicare gave us 60 to 70 days to do something when they did not give us complete instructions,” says Wilson. “They continued to provide additional information—clarifying and changing things—but our 60 days continued to stay and that seems so wrong. Even as late as a week ago they were continuing to give further clarifying information. All of this should have been crystal clear before we started.”

When winning bids are announced in December of this year, providers will have no way of knowing why they are not accepted. If CMS technical glitches are to blame, providers will ultimately be in the dark. “When you go to print out your form A, a summary lists everything you have selected—except it does not list what product categories you are bidding in and what CBA you are bidding in,” says Wilson. “They said they know it is a system problem, but they are sure they will get that information from us. And I said, ‘I have no way of proving that that’s not the reason I didn’t get accepted.’”