Tuesday, October 20, 2009

AAHomecare and Consumer Organizations Back Bipartisan Bill to Eliminate Medicare Bidding Program for Home Medical Equipment

“A ‘competitive’ bidding program that relies solely on the price of a winning bid simply cannot guarantee quality of, and access to the care our members need,” says K. Eric Larson, executive director of the National Spinal Cord Injury Association. “Home medical equipment providers offer quality items and service to beneficiaries living with paralysis and complex conditions such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), muscular dystrophy, and spinal cord injuries who rely on customized mobility equipment, life-dependent oxygen, and other life-preserving medical equipment, service, and care. This bidding program needs to be repealed before the program creates human tragedies across the country.”

The National Spinal Cord Injury Association, United Spinal Association and other consumer organizations have all joined AAHomecare in praising a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House of Representatives for backing introduction of H.R. 3790, a bill to eliminate the controversial, deeply flawed “competitive” bidding program for durable medical equipment and services in Medicare.

To ensure that seniors and taxpayers receive the savings projected for the bid program, the bill would reduce Medicare reimbursements to home medical equipment providers in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, and 2015. At the same time, the bill will allow thousands of home medical providers to keep their doors open to serve the millions of Americans who require home-based care and will allow patients to continue to receive services from the providers of their choice.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.), is cosponsored by Jason Altmire (D-Pa.), Steve Austria (R-Ohio), John Boccieri (D-Ohio), Bruce Braley (D-Iowa.), Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.), Sam Farr (D-Calif.), Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Tex.), Ron Klein (D-Fla.), Dan Maffei (D-N.Y.), John Murtha (D-Pa.), Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), Heath Shuler (D-N.C.), Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.), Patrick Tiberi (R-Ohio), and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.).

The introduction of the legislation comes just days before the scheduled start-up of the bidding process for the bid program for home medical equipment. The Medicare bidding process will begin on October 21 in nine metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) across the U.S. – Charlotte, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas-Fort Worth, Kansas City, Miami, Orlando, Pittsburgh, and Riverside, Calif. The bid prices and bid winners would be selected in 2010 and the new prices would become effective January 1, 2011. Another round of bidding would begin shortly after that in 100 MSAs across the U.S.

Categories subject to the bid program include medical oxygen, which is a highly regulated prescription drug, complex rehabilitative power wheelchairs, enteral nutrients (used in tube feeding), and hospital beds, among other categories.

Paul J. Tobin, president and CEO, United Spinal Association, said, “Congressman Meek and other bipartisan leaders in the House have recognized that wheelchairs and a host of other home medical devices are essential tools which, when properly configured for each individual patient, can liberate a person and maximize their quality of life. Unfortunately, the competitive bidding process will eliminate the home medical equipment provider’s ability to individually customize equipment based upon each patient’s medical needs and restrict the patient’s ability to work face-to-face with a local provider. If implemented, competitive bidding will have tragic, unintended consequences for seniors and people with disabilities.”

Visit www.aahomecare.org/competitivebidding for details about the bid program.

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