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MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

July, 2008


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Medicare Bidding Plan Will Limit Homecare Services

(NewsUSA) - Medicare bureaucrats are rolling out a program to bring "competitive bidding" to home medical equipment used by Medicare beneficiaries. In theory, this sounds good.
But a growing number of disability and patient groups and members of Congress recognize that this bidding program will reduce access to care. That's because it is designed to reduce the number of homecare providers. The types of equipment and services affected by the bidding program include oxygen therapy, power wheelchairs, and hospital beds used at home.

As designed, the new bidding program under Medicare will systematically eliminate thousands of qualified providers of durable medical equipment and services, driving them out of business and reducing the number of providers that are permitted to compete. Most of these providers are small and mid-sized companies with a long history of serving their local communities.

The bidding program is scheduled to begin in ten metropolitan areas: Charlotte, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Kansas City, Miami, Orlando, Pittsburgh, Riverside and San Juan.

The bidding program is touted to save money. But a true accounting would need to include the costs of longer hospital stays, more frequent emergency room visits, and more physician visits. The impact of failed businesses and lost jobs in the homecare sector must be considered as well.

This bidding program has been fraught with problems and errors since the beginning. Homecare providers who have long served in their communities have been improperly disqualified from participating. In the meantime, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees Medicare, wants to expand the program to 70 more areas in the near future.

Providers, patient groups, and disability organizations are urging Congress to reevaluate the program and delay it until important questions about access to care, quality of care and fairness can be addressed.

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt has called for a greater use of home and community-based care because "it's not only where people want to be served, but it's radically more efficient."

For more information on Medicare and homecare, visit www.aahomecare.org.

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