Administration program cuts Medicare patients off from their existing medical suppliers
3:00 AM 11/19/2013
The Obama administration implemented a competitive bidding program that causes many Medicare patients to lose their existing health equipment providers, forcing seniors to rely on out-of-state companies that increase their medical costs and keep them waiting for essential services like oxygen.
Between 80 and 90 percent of previously-eligible providers of medical equipment and services are now excluded from serving Medicare patients in bid areas, according to figures compiled by the nonpartisan homecare advocacy group People for Quality Care (PFQC) and provided to The Daily Caller.
“Prior to competitive bidding, providers were chosen from a long list of Medicare-eligible providers. Not anymore,” PFQC executive Kelly Turner told TheDC.
And while the competitive bidding, which ignores a host of other factors in pursuit of the lowest offer, saves some money up front, anecdotal evidence suggests it may end up costing more as seniors without proper preventive care end up using more emergency room services.
The Obama administration has defended its implementation of the cost-cutting “Competitive Bidding Program for Durable Medical Equipment, Prosthetics, Orthotics and Supplies,” which was signed into law by President Bush in 2003 but only partially implemented in 2011 and more extensively implemented in the last several months over bipartisan opposition.
The program saves money for the federal government by only allowing low-bid companies to provide Medicare patients with devices, supplies, and other services.
PFQC’s telephone hotline has already yielded more than 2,500 complaints from Medicare patients losing their existing equipment and services providers and having to switch to government-contracted companies that are out of state and unable to respond in a timely manner to patient requests. Additionally, many Medicare-eligible providers are now going out of business due to the competitive bidding program.
A North Carolina woman with breathing problems who registered a complaint with PFQC said that she lost her longtime medical devices and supplies provider when it did not receive a government contract under competitive bidding. The woman now has a new provider 40 miles away from her home, and she waits up to two weeks for her supplies. Additionally, she and her elderly husband lost their “hardship case” discount when they switched providers, significantly raising their medical costs.
“If they said they were going to be there, they always were,” the woman told PFQC, referring to her former provider.