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Medicare Bidding Program Endangers Patients, Costs Jobs in Pittsburgh, says American Association for Homecare
Date:4/4/2012

e, are worse than we ever expected…and we expected it to be challenging," said Georgie Blackburn, Vice President of Government Relations and Legislative Affairs at Blackburn's, which has provided home medical equipment in the Pittsburgh area for more than 75 years.

In reality, some of the 32 percent cut in walkers, wheelchairs, oxygen therapy, diabetic supplies, and other products, will result in higher Medicare costs for emergency room visits, longer hospitals stays, and confinement in nursing homes. Moreover, the bidding procurement system is causing hardships for beneficiaries, as well as providers, many of whom are small or family-owned businesses.

"It's terrible," says John Shirvinsky, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of Medical Suppliers. "The bidding program is impacting everyone. Patients incur delays in receiving medical equipment and often complain it isn't what was ordered. Companies are selling their businesses, laying off workers, and going out of business. One company let go 10 percent of their workforce after they won bids. Some who received contracts refuse to be called bid 'winners.' There are no winners in this badly flawed process."

With Medicare, he says, each division operates in its own silo. "So if cutting HME saves $100 in one category, there is absolutely no consideration that it may cost another category $1,000. This happens when a patient in respiratory distress is forced into more-expensive hospital care because emergency home care is no longer immediately available. Or when a patient with mobility needs is forced into a care facility because they can't sustain themselves independently in their home. In either case, an unintended consequence of the bidding program moves patients from a Medicare category costing dollars a day to categories costing hundreds or thousands of dollars a day."

Shirvinsky says the broad problem is one frequently aimed at Washington: "The bureaucrats making the
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SOURCE American Association for Homecare
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