Monday, July 14, 2008

Price Versus Cost of Effective Use for Home Devices

Response to Michael Leavitt's editorial in the Wall Street Journal by Tyler Wilson.

July 14, 2008; Page A16

It was disappointing to see Health and Human Services Secretary Michael O. Leavitt leading the effort to retain the competitive bidding program implemented this month for medical equipment providers who service Medicare beneficiaries ("Will Congress Continue a Medicare Scam?," op-ed, July 9). He fails to mention the problems with the bidding program.

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which the secretary oversees, has implemented a program that is creating havoc for physicians, providers, and hospital discharge officials, and may be endangering the lives of some Medicare beneficiaries. Since the program began July 1, the American Association for Homecare has received numerous complaints.

How disingenuous has Secretary Leavitt been? He is comparing prices of medical equipment from licensed providers to equipment obtained on the Internet. Equipment from the Internet comes without 24-hour support, patient/caregiver education, accreditation, state licensing or quality control. Surely, Secretary Leavitt is aware that the Medicare program requires its traditional providers to ensure that beneficiaries or their caregivers can operate the power wheelchair, hospital bed, oxygen system or other equipment. Is the administration now suggesting that seniors and others on Medicare should order vital medical equipment from and have it dropped at their doorstep by UPS? Is that the answer for improving health care?
In Washington, lawmakers have not been fooled by Mr. Leavitt's "spin" and know this bidding program puts constituents in harm's way. That's why the House voted overwhelmingly to suspend the program for at least 18 months so it can be fixed. The secretary did not mention that the bidding program has loopholes allowing unlicensed companies to provide sensitive equipment, such as oxygen, and has awarded contracts to companies located miles away from the service area to provide equipment they have rarely or never previously provided.

Congress should put this program on hold until we can be assured that Medicare beneficiaries will be treated with dignity once again.

Tyler J. Wilson
American Association for Homecare
Arlington, Va.

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