What if the delivery van can’t get anywhere near the patient’s home because the streets are blocked by downed trees? What if the patient lives on the 41st floor of a building that doesn’t have power?
HME providers along a large swath of the East Coast have faced these and other daunting obstacles in caring for their patients this week. Many providers have the additional difficulty of working out of offices that are themselves flooded, wind damaged, or lacking electricity and phone service.
In general, adversity tends to bring out the best in all of us. HME providers are no exception. They will work to the point of exhaustion taking care not only of their own patients, but also of each other. They’ll coordinate with competitors to make sure that everyone who needs help gets it. As first responders, they are a safety net for people who need medical equipment and supplies at home.
So what big lesson has
taught us? We already knew that
preparation is key and that having a back-up plan is essential. What we didn’t
know was just how fragile the safety net that we built for our patients is becoming. Sandy
And the situation will only get worse if Medicare’s bidding program is allowed to take full effect across the country next year. When businesses are arbitrarily blocked from serving patients, the result is widespread tears in that safety net.
The net, though tattered, is holding together for now. Eventually, however, there will be enough holes that someone will fall through.
Even if Congress is able to ignore the job losses and the increased hospitalization and nursing home costs caused by the bidding program, can they ignore the danger to patients? Does someone actually have to die to get their attention?
If you haven’t yet, call or email your member of Congress today. Ask them to cosponsor H.R. 6490, the Medicare DMEPOS Market Pricing Program Act of 2012. This is a sustainable alternative to the current bidding program: it saves the same money, but without eroding access to cost-effective home-based equipment and care.