New data shows many Medicare beneficiaries face obstacles in obtaining critical durable medical equipment and services in nine regions of the country, according to the American Association for Homecare (AA Homecare).
Services and equipment such as oxygen therapy, walkers, respiratory devices, hospital beds, and power wheelchairs have been restricted in areas such as Charlotte, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Kansas City, Miami, Orlando, Pittsburgh andRiverside, Calif.
The problems stem from a procurement system that was implemented a year ago according to AA Homecare.
“Their system reduces choice, access, and quality of care for seniors and people with disabilities who require home medical equipment and services,” said Tyler J. Wilson, president of AA Homecare. “Medicare has to ensure that beneficiaries can receive oxygen therapy, wheelchairs, respiratory devices, and diabetic supplies in a timely manner. But there is no longer any confidence that medical equipment and services can be obtained when they are needed.”
The association claims the bidding program drives up Medicare costs in other categories because low-cost DME equipment will be replaced with much more expensive emergency room visits and hospital stays. Now CMS is on the verge of expanding this program to 91 more metropolitan areas nationwide.
“The objective of a ‘competitive’ bidding system should be to increase competition,” Wilson said. “But the current Medicare bidding system for home medical equipment allows for non-binding bids that encourage irresponsible bidding and unsustainable prices.”
AA Homecare is calling on Congress to stop the current bidding process and enact a market pricing program that features an auction system to establish market-based prices around the country.
“This alternative auction program would help Medicare make fundamental changes to lower costs to preserve the economic viability of home-based care and ensure that millions of seniors and people with disabilities retain the option of remaining safe and independent at home,” said Wilson.
Written by John Yedinak