132 Members of Congress Urge One-Year Delay in Controversial Medicare Bidding Program for Home Medical Equipment

ARLINGTON, Va., June 3 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Yesterday, nearly one-third of the members of the U.S. House of Representatives urged a one-year delay in the controversial and flawed "competitive bidding" program for home medical equipment in Medicare.

Two letters signed by 132 members of Congress urge the leaders of the Ways and Means Committee and its subcommittee on health to "delay implementation of this program until outstanding issues can be resolved." The letters cite homecare providers that were excluded from the bidding program "apparently through no fault of their own," discrepancies in information and contract awards, and lack of transparency at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) about the evaluation of bids and the calculation of reimbursement rates.

The bidding program applies to oxygen therapy, power wheelchairs, hospital beds, and several other categories of durable medical equipment and services used by beneficiaries in the home. The first round of the program is scheduled for implementation on July 1, 2008 in 10 metropolitan areas in the United States: Charlotte, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Kansas City, Miami, Orlando, Pittsburgh, Riverside, and San Juan. The program is scheduled to expand to 70 additional areas in 2009.

The letters conclude, "At the very least, an internal review should be conducted to ensure the accuracy and effectiveness of the criteria for future bidding. We all agree that it is of the utmost importance that we protect access to quality medical supplies for all of Medicare beneficiaries and people with disabilities. Therefore, we urge that the implementation of Round 1 be delayed for at least a year."

The primary authors of the letters are Congressmen John Tanner (D-Tenn.), David Hobson (R-Ohio), and Jason Altmire (D-Pa.). For the text and list of signatories, see www.aahomecare.org.

Tyler J. Wilson, president and CEO of the American Association for Homecare, stated, "This bidding program has been ill-conceived, poorly planned, and a wholly mishandled effort on the part of CMS. It will put thousands of good homecare providers out of business and patients' access to quality home medical equipment and services will suffer as a result. We are pleased that so many members of the House recognize the magnitude of these problems and have gone on record to urge delay and review of the program."

The American Association for Homecare recommends an alternative pricing process that achieves accurate reimbursement rates but also preserves access to quality homecare for Medicare beneficiaries.

The Association is pursuing regulatory, legislative, and judicial remedies to allow for review of the troubled program. The Association is also calling for an 18-month delay in implementation of competitive bidding until questions about patient access to medical equipment and services and adverse impact on homecare providers can be fully assessed.

The American Association for Homecare represents providers, equipment manufacturers, and other organizations in the homecare community. Members serve the medical needs of millions of Americans who require oxygen equipment and therapy, mobility assistive technologies, medical supplies, inhalation drug therapy, home infusion, and other medical equipment and services in their homes. Membership includes providers of all sizes operating approximately 3,000 locations in all 50 states.

SOURCE American Association for Homecare

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