Monday, November 30, 2009

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Reports Patient Impact of Bidding Program

When speaking of the Medicare competitive bidding program for durable medical equipment, " 'Competitive' is a misnomer of Orwellian proportions," said John Shirvinsky, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of Medical Suppliers. "You cannot eliminate nine out of 10 competitors from the market and expect to achieve a competitive result."

Shirvinsky was quoted in a November 29 article titled “Upcoming limits worry device providers” in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The article describes western Pennsylvania as home to 479 durable medical equipment providers who are gravely concerned about the new bidding process which will limit the number of companies that can serve Medicare patients.

Bidding for the program will close December 21 and CMS will announce next year the successful bidders for contracts, which will begin in January 2011.

"We're very concerned that if we again end up with a small number of inexpert bidders that we're going to consistently be getting equipment that isn't right for us," said Lucy Spruill, a cerebral palsy patient and director of public policy for United Cerebral Palsy of Pittsburgh.

The article and Spruill’s quotes were prompted by a recent conference call organized by Shirvinsky to examine the misguided bid program and push congressional legislation to end it. The article explains:

“A bill introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Fla., would repeal the competitive bid program. It has garnered 75 co-sponsors, including Reps. Jason Altmire, D-McCandless; Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair; John Murtha, D-Johnstown; Kathy Dahlkemper, D-Erie; and Glenn Thompson, R-Centre. The bill also would phase in price reductions, which Mr. Shirvinsky said would produce the same savings without upending the industry.

‘I understand why in terms of the Deficit Reduction Act and with this competitive bidding why this was looked at, but really it was misguided,’ said Mr. Thompson, who worked in rehabilitation services before running for Congress.

In 2008, Mr. Altmire played a role in pushing back the implementation of competitive bidding because, he said, the focus on cost was too shortsighted. ‘Cost is certainly a part of it, but so is the quality of care you're seeing, so is the fact that local suppliers are a part of our communities,’ Mr. Altmire said.”

To read the full article, visit

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