Monday, June 23, 2008

CMES says Congress to renege on Medicare Competive Building Program

When does your word mean your word? Depends on who it is:

HOLLYWOOD, Fla., June 23 /PRNewswire/ -- Congress has introduced a new bill that would delay the implementation of the Medicare Competitive Bidding Program, according to the Contracted Medicare Equipment Suppliers Association of America (CMES). This program would have drastically reduced the amount of money Medicare spends on items such as walkers, oxygen, and power wheelchairs. The program would also reduce the out of pocket expense to patients by an average of 26%. In addition, it would virtually eliminate fraud, and require that all suppliers are inspected and accredited by the same organizations that accredit hospitals. For seniors, says CMES, it's a pretty good deal.

Not so, says Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA), who has crafted a bill to delay the program (HR 6252). This bill seeks to delay the program for up to 18 months due to complaints of problems by those who lost. Unsuccessful bidders put intense pressures on Congress over the last few months complaining they were unfairly disqualified mostly for financial reasons. According to Medicare most simply bid too high. However, there is a process in place to review those complaints. Medicare also reports that they randomly re-reviewed 100 unsuccessful bids and found that the rejection was justified in each case.

In May, 325 providers, mostly small business, were awarded contracts to provide products in 10 areas of the country. Those businesses have collectively spent millions preparing for this program. Unfortunately, Stark's bill would leave them with nothing more than a pile of debt. That's their thanks for dealing with the government.

This bill seeks to terminate the contracts of the program's bid winners, with no reason given. The bill fails to give any concession to the small businesses that have expanded their operations, some using SBA financing, solely to implement the government's program. The bill simply leaves them high and dry.

This bill is on the fast track through Congress as it will likely be added onto the "doc fix" legislation and will be voted on this week. To compound this problem patients are being notified by Medicare that the program will be going into effect July 1, 2008.

Should the program go live, the Contracted Medicare Equipment Suppliers Associations members assure seniors that they are ready, willing and able to implement this program beginning July 1. There is no reason seniors shouldn't get the savings they were promised years ago when this program was signed into law.

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