Monday, November 9, 2009

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Prints Piece on Home Medical Equipment Services

"Home medical equipment services firms not the villain" was printed in the Business Forum of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Saturday, November 07. The piece, written by Georgie Blackburn of BLACKBURN's in Tarentum, Pa., states the following:

The home medical equipment industry has become the scapegoat du jour in the cost-savings debate over health care reform.

The false narrative in circulation is that the home medical equipment sector has escaped reimbursement cuts -- most pointedly by persuading Congress to prevent competitive bidding.

The reality is the bidding program is on track, even though home medical equipment services already have been cut by legislation passed in 2003, 2005 and 2008. Additionally, two items that help beneficiaries remain independent by keeping them out of institutional care -- power wheelchairs and home oxygen therapy -- were cut by 26 percent in 2007 and 27 percent in 2009.

While the controversial bid program was delayed by Congress last year in order to address numerous flaws, the home medical equipment sector paid for the delay through a nationwide 9.5 percent reimbursement reduction on all bid-upon items.

Home medical equipment represents less than 2 percent of Medicare spending and is one of its slowest-growing segments, increasing by just 0.75 percent annually compared with the more than 6 percent annual growth for overall Medicare spending, according to National Health Expenditures data from Medicare.

Home care providers compete daily on the basis of speed and quality of service, since Medicare dictates the fee schedule and pays at the identical rate. The bidding regulations would eliminate as many as 90 percent of qualified providers through selective contracting and prevent us from caring for our customers for a three-year contract period. This reduces local patient access to quality care and removes a patient's right to choose a provider.

Competitive bidding is similar to a closed-model HMO and would result in government-mandated consolidation in the home medical equipment and services sector. Over the long run, the bid program will increase costs by complicating the transition from hospital to home, lengthening hospital stays and increasing the likelihood of re-hospitalizations.

The reality is that our sector's reimbursement has been cut many times in this decade alone. Many members of Congress oppose additional cuts because those reductions will erode the nation's battered infrastructure for providing home care. Both the Bush administration and President Barack Obama have publicly stated the obvious: home-based care is the most cost-effective setting for health care.

We are all for increasing competition and cutting costs, but not through a flawed bid system that reduces patient care and precludes 90 percent of existing providers.

Georgie Blackburn is vice president, government relations and legislative affairs, for home medical equipment and service provider Blackburn's in Tarentum.

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1 comment:

Russell: Disposable Medical Device said...

I agree that home medical equipment services is getting a "bum rap." I'm certain that there is some extra cost, but let's look at the big picture, shall we? The biggest portion of savings to be had lie in a variety of other areas. Medical equipment services has already "eaten" a decrease. Should we as a country focus on those areas with more fat to trim?