By the AAH, Special for USDR.
A bipartisan majority of 227 Representatives in the House have joined forces on a letter asking the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to delay implementation of a questionable procurement program for home medical equipment, says the American Association for Homecare. The program, known as “National Competitive Bidding,” is set to expand into 91 new areas on July 1.
The letter sent yesterday to CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner focused on “the lack of transparency, the lack of binding bids during the contract process, and the improper vetting of the financial wherewithal of many firms that have been awarded contracts.” The letter was signed by 60% of House Republicans and 40% of House Democrats.
At a press briefing Thursday morning, five of the Congressmen who support a delay spoke about their reasons for doing so.
“We are concerned that mishandling of the bidding process, as outlined in the letter, will impact Medicare’s ability to serve its beneficiaries and the taxpayers,” said Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.). “We urge the Administrator to do the right thing and delay the program through the end of 2013 in order to allow for adequate investigation and correction of the significant problems that we have identified.”
Rep. Thompson worked with Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) to educate their colleagues about the poorly designed program and to get their signatures on the letter.
“A government-imposed monopoly in medical equipment will put countless small businesses that provide medical supplies out of business, kill jobs in local communities, and reduce choices for Medicare beneficiaries,” said Rep. Braley. “The free market should be allowed to work within Medicare, and a bipartisan group of representatives comprising a majority of the U.S. House agree.”
In addition to members of the House, economists have also sounded the warning about Medicare’s procurement program. More than 240, including five Nobel laureates, sent a letter to President Obama expressing their dismay that no one in the administration had “taken any serious steps to fix the obvious flaws” in the program.
Patient advocacy groups have also made clear that they support congressional efforts. Earlier this week, 29 organizations signed a letter that was sent to Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) and Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), who introduced a bill in the House that would replace Medicare’s program with one that is market based. The letter states that “consumers are already experiencing access problems” because of the current program, which is running in nine test areas.
Added Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), “We need to protect seniors from unlicensed or non-registered companies providing products and services that mean the difference between life or death for those seniors who depend on them.”
“I am proud to be part of the bipartisan effort in Congress to call on CMS Administrator Tavenner to delay implementation of round 2 of the Durable Medical Equipment Competitive Bidding program,” said Rep. Chris Collins (D-N.Y.). “While trying to cut costs, the federal government has created an unsustainable system that will negatively affect seniors, people with disabilities, and small medical device companies.”
The congressmen were joined at the briefing by representatives for homecare companies whose employees will be hard hit by job losses and whose patients will struggle to get the medical equipment their doctors have prescribed.
“The current program is both anti-competitive and unsustainable,” said Tyler J. Wilson, president of AAHomecare. “Homecare companies are not scared of competition or of a fair bidding system that leads to market-based prices. But, the current program is not that system.”
The American Association for Homecare represents providers of home medical or durable medical equipment and services who serve the needs of millions of Americans who require prescribed oxygen therapy, wheelchairs, enteral feeding, and other medical equipment, services, and supplies at home. Visit www.aahomecare.org.