Competitive bidding allows Medicare to award contracts for medical equipment, such as wheelchairs, hospital beds, power wheelchairs and oxygen to the provider with the lowest bids. This policy has the potential to create barriers to access, diminish quality, restrict choices and drive small providers out of business.
Restricted provider access and choice will be the first thing the Medicare beneficiary will lose in this process. It is estimated that once the program takes full affect across the country, 70% of the small providers will no longer be in business. The ability to choose a provider creates competition, in turn competition creates quality. The policies Medicare has set regarding the level of service that would need to be maintained are vague and nearly impossible to monitor.
The primary focus of the government is to reduce the price they pay for the equipment. Naturally, providers will have no choice but to turn to cheaper products. All businesses require a profit in order to keep their doors open. Without a reasonable profit, it is impossible to provide added services to the client that has received equipment. Common sense indicates that life sustaining equipment, such as oxygen concentrators and compressors, should be manufactured with the highest standards possible in mind, rather than just the lowest price.
Competitive bidding will require you to use certain providers for specific equipment. This will be confusing for patients, care givers and referral sources who are accustomed to ordering all their equipment from one supplier. Knowing who to call for repairs and pick-ups becomes confusing and could cost the patient out of pocket if the wrong provider is called for emergency service.
A new form of bureaucracy will be created to administer the program. It is estimated more than 1600 employees will be hired. It will create less private enterprise and more government employees. The cost of implementing this program may outweigh any savings. The potential of increasing Medicare’s shortfall is all but certain.
Providers that want to participate are required to become accredited. There are a number of government approved organizations that can grant a company an accredited status. It is believed that this will eliminate fraud and unscrupulous providers. I only wish it were true. I know two providers in the Tampa area who received, with great fan fare, their Accreditation. Both cheated Medicare out of millions of dollars and left patients with no one to service the equipment they provided. Accreditation is an added cost to the providers that is nothing more than additional paper work that adds no real value to the end user. It is simply put, government bureaucracy at its finest.
The cost of being a provider has increased significantly over the past twenty-five years, yet Medicare prices have been reduced by 40% or more. The only providers with the capital to sustain this continued attack will be national suppliers. Small business has been the back bone of this country, and Congress appears to have us in their scope. Most small to medium providers hire eight to ten employees who become skilled in servicing the elderly. It is in this environment that the client is most likely to get the personal attention this type of service requires.
This atmosphere will also stymie research and development of new technology simply because the outlook for future funding is bleak. Continuing the development of new technology is extremely important to the quality of care that we all receive as senior citizens.
Medicare already has the ability to reduce the amount it pays for products and services without any input or feed back from the suppliers who provide the equipment and services. Competitive bidding is an acceptable practice when dealing directly with the manufacturer of the product. But home medical equipment providers are a service driven industry – not product. Yet, the cost of the product is the only thing Medicare wants to consider.
Medical equipment and home health has kept patients living independently and at home, yet Congress has assaulted this industry endlessly. It is time to put a stop to the madness. This program will have a negative affect on the quality of equipment and services. In addition, it will eliminate your small suppliers and limit access to technology. Your support is appreciated in this extremely important matter. Because you the end-user, family member or referral source will be directly affected, we urge you to write or call your Congressmen/women today.
Link find your local representative http://www.house.gov/writerep