Medicare Introduces New Competitive Bidding Program

Medicare (CMS) just announced great success at saving hundreds of millions of dollars in a limited pilot bidding program for Durable Medical Equipment by reducing prices and curbing inappropriate uses.  Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the U.S.  Dept. of HHS, who is in charge of CMS credits this success to the Affordable Care Act, ACA, or Health Care Reform.

This raises the following questions:

·         Why did CMS not already have a competitive bidding process in place?  Don’t all Government programs (including the not so frugal Pentagon) routinely use competitive bidding to curb fraud, waste and abuse?

·         Why did CMS wait so long for ACA before implementing such an obvious cost-saving procedure?

·         What other Medicare benefits, other than oxygen tanks, are also experiencing rampant fraud, waste and abuse?

·        Would a private insurer, if they were operating such a program, have allowed such rampant abuse to occur unchecked for so long?

Medicare was originally designed to be an insurance program.  This is more evidence why this program is inflating the nation’s deficit.  It’s become an unfunded Government program with out-of-control spending at Pentagon prices.

More details and links to full story below:

NAHU Newswire April 19, 2012:

Medicare To Expand Bidding Program After Pilot Saved $202 Million In First Year.

USA Today (4/19, Kennedy) reports, “A new competitive bidding pilot program that replaces Medicare fee schedules for durable medical equipment – such as wheelchairs, oxygen tanks or diabetic test strips – has saved Medicare $202 million in its first year,” according to a report by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). “Beneficiaries also saw 42% in savings in their co-insurance payments for medical equipment.” The CMS report also projects that “the program, if expanded nationwide, could save seniors and people with disabilities $17.1 billion over the next 10 years.”

The New York Times (4/19, B1, Pear, Subscription Publication) reports that Secretary Sebelius “said the pilot program had reduced Medicare costs by 42 percent, or $202 million, by securing lower prices and curbing ‘inappropriate utilization’ of personal medical equipment.” She added that “the savings showed the value of the” Affordable Care Act. The story says, “the bulk of the savings came from oxygen equipment, power wheelchairs and mail-order test strips for people with diabetes.” CMS deputy administrator Jonathan D. Blum “said the switch to competitive bidding had not compromised beneficiaries’ access to the items they needed,” and that “Medicare had received few complaints from beneficiaries in the last year.”

The AP (4/19, Alonso-Zaldivar) reports, “The nine-city crackdown targeting waste and fraud has drawn a strong protest from the medical supply industry, which is warning of shortages for people receiving Medicare benefits and economic hardship for small suppliers. But the shift to competitive bidding has led to few complaints from those in Medicare.” It will be expanded “to a total of 100 cities next year, along with a national mail order program for diabetes supplies.” The story quotes Blum saying, “Costs are lower and there is no impact on the health status of our beneficiaries.”

CQ (4/19, Reichard, Subscription Publication) cites Blum saying that “contrary to the claims of critics, the program hasn’t led to disruptions in access to products … Nor has it led to adverse health effects requiring more hospital, doctor, or skilled nursing care.” In response, “Michael Reinemer, spokesman for the American Association for Homecare (AAH), said ‘we don’t find that credible,'” adding, “We documented four or five hundred complaints from patients or clinicians.”

The Hill (4/19, Pecquet) in its “Healthwatch” blog cites the CMS report and the AAH dissent.

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