Longtime proponent of homecare, Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), grilled U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt about suggested cuts to durable medical equipment and services (DME) during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on the President’s fiscal year 2009 budget proposal early this week.
Not only was Roberts concerned for seniors’ welfare, but he also cited his concern for DME providers in the Kansas City MSA who are waiting to hear from CMS about competitive bidding contracts, alluding to his fear that many may no longer be able to provide DME.
Roberts described the current situation for DME providers as “a perfect storm,” saying, “What worries me is that you won’t have enough healthcare providers to even have Medicare.” (The competitive bidding program does not allow for those who are not selected as winning bidders to provide equipment or services to Medicare beneficiaries, even if they agree to the lower, competitively bid reimbursement rates. Medicare payments typically comprise 35 to 50 percent of a small provider’s revenue.)
In defense of the program, Secretary Leavitt said competitive bidding will save more than 20 percent across all the product categories in round one of bidding and described the bidding program as the “fair way” to reduce DME prices in Medicare.
Roberts said he wants to go on record opposing reductions to oxygen reimbursement and other cuts to home healthcare until Congress has a chance to review the coming impact of existing Medicare regulations, referencing the 36-month cap on home oxygen equipment payments and the competitive bidding program.
To read more about providers’ fears about competitive bidding visit: “Equipment dealers brace for Medicare bidding edict” in the Columbus Business First