Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Orlando Sentinel Publishes Rebuttal to Recent Medicare Column

In “My Word: Medicare bidding flawed,” Aaron Bates from Orlando, Fla., discusses the flaws in a recent column on Medicare’s competitive bidding program which was printed in the Orlando Sentinel. Bates states the article is, “based upon the flawed premise that medical equipment and related services (oxygen therapy, wheelchairs, etc.) delivered to Medicare beneficiaries in their homes should be reimbursed based on what one would pay on the Internet or at a retailer for the equipment alone.

As someone who has used a wheelchair since the age of 4 due to a form of muscular dystrophy, I can tell you that a power wheelchair, specifically fitted for my disability, cannot be acquired over the Internet.

Even oxygen, as a regulated prescription drug, can't just be picked up at a local Walmart. Should a user who depends on supplemental oxygen to stay alive pick it up at Walmart, adjust the flow rate, and maintain this system, plus a back-up, on their own? Will Walmart provide emergency supplies of oxygen after a hurricane when the power's out?”

To read the full piece, visit orlandosentinel.com/news/opinion/os-ed-myword-medicare-072710-20100726,0,6622438.story.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Nation Celebrates 20th Anniversary of ADA

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), was signed into law on July 26, 1990. More than 54 million Americans with physical or mental impairments that substantially limit daily activities are protected under the ADA, including many of the beneficiaries cared for by the HME community.

“This landmark legislation is important to millions of Americans who are served by the home medical equipment community and it’s a good opportunity to remind policy makers and the media about the importance of HME,” said Tyler Wilson, president of the American Association for Homecare.

West Coast Activities Include:
The Silicon Valley Independent Living Center, in San Jose, Calif., is organizing the First Annual West Coast Disability Pride Parade and Festival which will take place Saturday, July 24, 2010. The event celebrates the 20th Anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“With this event, we hope to send a loud message to the community that disability is a natural and beautiful part of human diversity that people living with disabilities can take pride in,” says Sarah Triano, Executive Director of SVILC. “We want children with disabilities to know they are beautiful, whole human beings just the way they are.”

For more detailed information please go to the event webpage at

East Coast Activies Include:
20TH Anniversary ADA Gala will take place at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on
July 26, 2010 7 – 11 pm. This special evening salutes the disability community’s crowning achievement. Representatives from Congress and the Administration will attend the Gala, along with featured performing artists. Fine food, great company, good laughs, and lively dancing— they’re all yours to enjoy as we come together to celebrate our diversity and
showcase our Power & Pride. For more information or to purchase a ticket, visit www.mypowerandpride.com.

To learn more about 20th Anniversary celebrations of the ADA across the nation and how your HME can support local events in conjunction with local and state consumer organizations, please visit http://adaanniversary.org/.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Sun Sentinel publishes opinion piece on competitive bidding

“Quality, dependable service beneficiaries will become a thing of the past once the few suppliers awarded the bid become so bogged down that they cannot handle the sheer volume of patients, forcing them to cut back services or equipment to the very people who need them the most: the old and the sick,” the opinion piece in the Sun Sentinel states. The piece titled, “Competitive bidding not the solution to Medicare's woes” ran on July 15 and was written by Diane Sori, a Cooper City resident and wife of an independent respiratory therapist contractor.

The article points out the fact that competitive bidding will mean longer, more expensive hospital stays which causes a shift in cost from Medicare Part B to Part A. It cites the example that a day of home oxygen therapy costs less than $7, while a day in the hospital costs more than $5,500.

“Competitive bidding was an ill-conceived solution to the government's failure to reign in suppliers who abused and defrauded the system. Instead of just shutting down those suppliers, they chose to place the burden of their mismanagement on legitimate suppliers whose only goal was, and is, to serve those in medical need and to make a legitimate living by doing so.”

To read the full opinion column, visit http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/opinion/commentary/fl-competitive-bidding--forum-20100715,0,5104771.story.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

ALERT: Scorching Heat Threatens Seniors

With 100-plus temperatures scorching the East Coast, excessive heat and poor air quality pose a grave health risk for seniors, particularly those living at home alone.

People age 65 and older, people who are ill, and children under four are particularly at risk. Air conditioning and drinking fluids are key defenses against extreme heat. For guidance, visit the Centers for Disease Control website information page on extreme heat.

The HME sector serves on the nation’s front line of providing healthcare to seniors. Please leave a comment and let us know what steps your company is taking to ensure the safety of patients you serve during this heat wave.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Seniors and People with Disabilities Will Pay Steep Price for Medicare’s Bid Program

Homecare Association Calls for an End to the Controversial Bidding Program that Will Cost Thousands of Lost Jobs and Business Failures and Will Not Save Money for Seniors

Seniors and people with disabilities who rely on home medical equipment and services will pay a steep price under Medicare’s controversial and mislabeled “competitive” bidding program for durable medical equipment.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced today that bidding in nine of the country’s largest metropolitan areas could save Medicare as much as $17 billion over 10 years for home medical equipment and services. But those alleged savings are the result of “suicide bids” from providers in this ill-advised race to the bottom that will put thousands of homecare providers out of business and reduce patients’ access to care. Recognizing that the program is bad healthcare policy, a bipartisan group of 252 lawmakers in the House of Representatives support legislation that would repeal the bidding program.

“The bid prices announced by HHS today will translate into unsustainable reimbursement rates for homecare providers. Over time, it will make it harder for seniors and people with disabilities to get the home medical equipment and services they require to live independently in the most cost-effective post-acute setting – their own homes.”

The Medicare bidding program uses economic coercion to force homecare providers to submit unsustainable bids necessary to win a contract. Because Medicare is the largest third-party purchaser of home medical care, its market power effectively coerces providers to bid at unsustainable reimbursement rates to ensure the opportunity to continue serving Medicare beneficiaries. Ultimately, the below-market rates achieved through this bidding program will force thousands of businesses to close, reducing competition in the long term and reducing seniors’ access to care and choice of providers.

Congress delayed the implementation of this bidding program in 2008 to allow for needed changes, and the home medical equipment sector paid for that delay by taking a 9.5 percent nationwide reimbursement cut to pay for the projected savings from the initial round of the program. However, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) ignored congressional intent, did not address the flaws that precipitated the delay two years ago, and is now recklessly charging forward with the program in nine of the 10 largest metropolitan statistical areas in the U.S. An additional 91 areas will be subjected to the bidding process next year.

A broad, bipartisan group of 252 members of the House of Representatives has cosponsored legislation in Congress, H.R. 3790, to stop the bidding program and replace it with a fiscally responsible measure to reduce payment rates for homecare but preserve the ability of home medical providers to continue serving Medicare beneficiaries.

Other organizations that support the elimination of Medicare’s bidding program for home medical equipment include the ALS Association, the American Association for Respiratory Care, the American Association of People with Disabilities, International Ventilator Users Network, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, National Emphysema/COPD Association, National Spinal Cord Injury Association, Post-Polio Health International, and United Spinal Association, among others.

“This bidding program will further reduce reimbursement rates for home medical care which have already been cut to the bone,” Wilson said. “The program will only make it harder to receive medically required homecare. Over time, the country will see spending soar in other parts of Medicare because the bidding program will push spending into longer hospital stays and ER visits.”

Unintended negative consequences of the bidding program include:

• REDUCED ACCESS TO CARE AND SERVICE DISRUPTION – This bidding program will restrict consumer access to care and choice for home medical items and services, and it will trigger a race to the bottom in terms of quality. Less expensive items will be provided to patients. The program will disrupt the continuum and coordination of care between doctors, discharge planners, patients, and home medical equipment providers. With a loss of providers, expedient deliveries of items and services will be eliminated.

• HIGHER SPENDING IN MEDICARE – The bidding program will increase Medicare costs. It will lead to longer, more expensive hospital stays and more physician office visits, nursing home admissions, and emergency room visits.

• LESS COMPETITION, NOT MORE – The bid program is anti-competitive because it reduces the number of competitors. About 90 percent of home medical service providers would have been barred from the Medicare program in the first round of bidding conducted in 2008.

• LOSS OF JOBS AND SMALL BUSINESSES – The bidding program will result in the closing of thousands of small businesses and result in as many as 100,000 job losses nationwide.

To read the full release, visit the AAHomecare Newsroom.