Health Care Gone Wrong Act
When the Health Care Reform Act was passed part of that bill was a program called the “Competitive Bidding Program”. This program takes larger populated areas and once every 3 years companies get to put in sealed bids for supplying some of the equipment Medicare pays for. Then Medicare chooses some companies based on who won these bids to supply the equipment. The idea is to save money for Medicare but unfortunately this is at the patients’ and providers’ expense.
Home Medical Equipment (HME) is a necessity in allowing patients to remain in their homes where equipment such as; walkers, commodes, wheelchairs, hospital beds, and oxygen equipment therapy (to name a few) help patients accomplish activities of daily living, independently. By keeping patients at home it is less expensive and safer in both the short and long term for the patient and Medicare.
Since the implementation of this program in 2013 over 50% of Home Medical Equipment companies have gone out of business. Tens of thousands of family owned small businesses all over the country are gone and thousands of others have stopped taking Medicare due to the reimbursement rate cuts and trying to collect what Medicare owes them for equipment already delivered. In areas across the country patients are waiting weeks for equipment that we in the industry use to deliver the same day. Patients in a number of rural areas have no access to home medical equipment because many of the providers are now out of business and they were the only provider in the area.
After Medicare cut the reimbursement rates by 55% AAHomecare commissioned Dobson Davanzo to do a Patient Access Study (www.aahomecare.org/advocacy/reports-studies). It shows Medicare beneficiaries are having difficulties getting the equipment they need more than 50% of the time, hospitals having problems getting the equipment needed to discharge the patients, and patient complications because of equipment access. The study also shows what Medicare is now paying is below cost for the HME providers. This is unstainable and needs to be rectified quickly.
While cutting the reimbursements to HME companies appears to save Medicare money, if patients cannot get the equipment they need in a timely manner they may injure themselves requiring a hospital visit or worse. Because so many small companies have been put out of business, seniors are having problems finding suppliers for equipment that are not one of the bid items. The companies that use to carry items like catheters and wound care supplies are no longer around.
The National Minority Quality Form (http://www.nmqf.org/is-medicare-increasing-mortali...), an independent Washington D.C. organization that monitors health care issues, produced an independent report in 2015, on Medicare’s Competitive Bidding Program. It states the program is a disaster for our senior population and is certainly not saving the government money.
In fact it not only costing more money it is also killing our seniors because they cannot get the equipment they need in a timely manner. There is also a report by the American Diabetes Association that comes to the same conclusion. (www.nmqf.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/NMQF-ADA-P...)
Michael Fleming, MD, FAAFP, (a retired practicing family physician, and past president of the American Academy of Family Physicians) wrote an article titled “Medicare Cuts Will Disproportionately Harm COPD Patients” where he states how the patients will be seriously negatively impacted and will end up costing Medicare many times what it is saving in the cuts. (blog.vgmdclink.com/medicare-cuts-will-disproportionately-harm-copd-patients/)
I have personally gone to Washington D.C. twice a year for last 5 years to lobby to eliminate this program. With so many companies being put out of business and with so many seniors, the seniors will end up having to buy the equipment themselves.
The equipment being delivered today is not only cheap and inadequate for many of the seniors but they have to pay out of pocket to get better and more useful equipment. Medicare has spent millions of dollars in the implementation of this program to just cut the reimbursement rates by 55% for HME providers.
This Medicare administrative overhead will never go away without eliminating this program. Congress could have voted to cut the reimbursement rates and saved the millions of dollars for the beneficiaries. Medicare keeps reporting to Congress there are no problems or complaints. We have seen first-hand that this is so far from the truth.
I am angry with our elected officials in Washington for creating a program that makes our seniors suffer and die sooner just to save money, which is what this program is doing. The US Congress is reluctant to do anything to fix this problem. Our government is wasting Medicare dollars in many other ways that we have tried to get Congress to fix. Each Medicare claim can be audited by Medicare up to 5 times. Seems like a waste when if you audit it once shouldn’t that be enough? And more than 75% of the time the audits are incorrect and are overturned by the justice system.
Home Medical Equipment accounts for less than 2% of the Medicare budget. I encourage everyone reading this to call, email and/or write to their Congressman and Senators telling them to stop trading our seniors’ lives to save money and end the Competitive Bidding Program now before it’s too late for yourself or someone you love.
Wayne Perry is Owner, and President of Unity Medical, 4200 Tamiami Trail Sw D, Port Charlotte, FL 33952, and member of AAHomecare, The Med Group and the VGM Group, and the local Chambers of Commerce.
Rep. Tom Rooney: (District 17)
Punta Gorda Office
226 Taylor Street, Suite 230
Punta Gorda, FL 33950
Washington Phone: 202-225-5792
Sen. Bill Nelson:
Fort Myers Office
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Fort Myers, FL 33901
Washington Phone: 202-224-5274
Sen. Marco Rubio
5201 West Kennedy Blvd Sw 530
Tampa, FL 33609
Washington Phone: 202-224-3041