Bill would end competitive bidding for Medicare DME

A bill pending in Congress would eliminate Medicare's oft-criticized competitive bidding program for durable medical equipment, reports Healthcare Finance News.

The Fairness in Medicare Bidding Act has bipartisan sponsorship in the House. "CMS' competitive bidding program limits seniors' ability to buy highly specialized medical equipment from the local suppliers they know and trust," said Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Penn.). "We have introduced legislation to repeal this misguided program at no new cost to taxpayers."

The bidding program was launched by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in nine cities in January, and will be expanded to more than 90 others by the end of the year. It was intended to cut costs and reduce billing discrepancies, as DME has long been a hotspot for Medicare fraud.

However, a website set up by the American Association of Homecare that allowed feedback from Medicare patients published complaints about not being able to find local DME providers, and delays in deliveries that have lengthened hospital stays and driven up costs.

"We are an industry that supports robust competition," said John Shirvinsky, executive director for the Pennsylvania Association of Medical Suppliers. "But the use of the term 'competitive' is hardly descriptive of what this program actually does."

The bill's other author, Rep. Glenn Thompson, is a Pennsylvania Republican.

For more:
- read the Healthcare Finance News article
- read the bill