Wednesday, July 9, 2008

“Delay” Means “Improve” to Seniors and Homecare Providers

An opinion piece written by the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Michael Leavitt, and published on July 9, 2008 in The Wall Street Journal (“Will Congress Continue a Medicare Scam?”) cites the same old argument comparing the cost of homecare services and products to equipment purchased on the Internet. He also discusses legislation which is up for a vote this week. Leavitt says, “Make no mistake: ‘Delay’ means ‘kill.’ Killing this competitive-bidding program would cost taxpayers about $1 billion annually, while unjustly overcharging senior citizens.”

In this case, “Delay” actually means “Improve.” Champions in Congress are trying to improve the program during an 18-month delay because the program has been so poorly implemented. Not only has the first week proved a lack of communication on the part of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) when educating providers and beneficiaries of the changes occurring, but the program has also reduced access to care in all competitively bid areas due to unprepared and/or unqualified contract winners. The lack of verification by CMS of supplier capacity, and CMS approval of long-distance suppliers with no location near the service area has created confusion and frustration for many beneficiaries, referral sources, and hospital discharge planners. CMS is also still allowing unlicensed suppliers to be contract providers.

Leavitt says Congress’ failure to uphold this program will mean they do not have the political courage to make harder decisions on healthcare reform. But the opposite is true. If members make the difficult choice of voting for a delay even though the President has threatened a veto and the competitive bidding program has already been implemented, they will be making the honorable choice, the choice to protect seniors from further harm.

Read Leavitt’s Opinion piece at:
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