Federal budget experts advised the Senate Budget Committee to curb entitlement spending growth, according to Congressional Quarterly. Alice Rivlin, former head of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the White House Office of Management and Budget, encouraged Congress to immediately take steps to reduce the contributions to future deficits of Social Security and Medicare.
At a Budget Committee hearing yesterday, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) warned that if Congress waits too long to reform healthcare via preventive care and information technology then lawmakers would have to revert to the “bloody tool box” of reducing coverage, benefits, and reimbursements. Rivlin advocated using some of those “tools,” such as competitive bidding for home medical equipment. Referring to last year’s delay of the bidding program, “Rivlin said that with all due respect it was ‘ridiculous’ of lawmakers to halt competitive bidding,” reported Congressional Quarterly.
Tyler Wilson, president of the American Association for Homecare, commented, “With all due respect to Ms. Rivlin, it would have been ridiculous to continue that bidding program, which was a disaster for patients and providers alike, which is why Congress wisely reformed and delayed the program. Moreover, the home medical equipment sector more than paid for the full savings that the flawed bidding program was projected to have saved through the 9.5 percent cut that took effect earlier this month. And the durable medical equipment sector is growing at just 0.75 percent per year despite growing demand. ”
President Obama has spoken about the need for holding a “fiscal responsibility summit,” to address issues such as Medicare spending, prior to releasing his first budget to Congress. “As Congress and the administration look at healthcare reforms, it is imperative that the HME sector be present and vocal in these discussions,” Wilson said.