Thursday, June 26, 2008

Rebuttal to USA Today Article "Our view on health care: Suppliers defend sweet deal"

Opposing view: Fix the bidding program

Flawed rules will trigger service disruptions to Medicare patients.

By Tyler J. Wilson

Competition in Medicare should save money, should be fair and should not lower the quality of home care for seniors and people with disabilities.

That's why Congress is working on a bipartisan effort to improve the competitive bidding program for durable medical equipment. Congress is trying to fix a broken bidding program that, unless improved, will improperly exclude thousands of qualified home care providers from Medicare — and reduce competition.

As it stands, the bidding program will trigger widespread disruptions in service to Medicare beneficiaries who require oxygen therapy, power wheelchairs, diabetic supplies, and other items and services that help them live healthy, independent lives.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., who proposed several needed improvements, said cost reductions "cannot be accomplished at the expense of low quality and inconsistent care." His Republican counterpart, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, said the improvements "will help prevent many small home-medical-equipment suppliers from going out of business."

Taxpayers will recoup every dime of the savings that immediate implementation of the flawed bidding program would have reaped. The home care industry has agreed to billions of dollars in reimbursement cuts to pay for the delay.

Another way to save taxpayers' money is by reducing Medicare fraud. Long overdue accreditation requirements will help.

The argument that Medicare rates for home care should be based on prices for medical equipment purchased on the Internet is preposterous. The comparison discounts the hard reality that serving frail Medicare patients at home includes essential services to ensure quality of care.

The law requiring bidding is 5 years old, but the implementation rules were not announced until last year. Those rules are deeply flawed. If not fixed now, a bad program spreads to 70 more cities in the months ahead. The proposed improvements would still save billions and preserve quality.

Submitted by Tyler Wilson and published as a response to the June 26 editorial in USA Today titled "Our view on health care: Suppliers defend sweet deal." Read the editorial in USA Today,, and post a comment.

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