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Seniors in Ohio Report Problems With Access to Home Medical Equipment and Services Under Controversial Medicare Bidding System
Date:2/10/2011

CLEVELAND, Feb. 10, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Medicare beneficiaries are reporting problems receiving medically required home medical equipment and services following the January 1, 2011 implementation of Medicare's "competitive" bidding program in Cleveland and Cincinnati. The program affects many of the more than 640,000 seniors and people living with disabilities in Cleveland and Cincinnati who are enrolled in Medicare.

The bidding program began in nine areas on January 1 and is scheduled to begin in an additional 91 regions later this year, including several areas of Ohio where another 760,000 Medicare beneficiaries live, including the Akron, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo, Youngstown, and other metropolitan statistical areas in the state. 

The program applies to oxygen therapy, enteral nutrients (tube feeding), continuous positive air pressure (CPAP) and respiratory assistive devices, power wheelchairs, walkers, hospital beds and support surfaces, and mail-order diabetic supplies.

By design, this new Medicare program will severely restrict the number of companies that are allowed to provide the equipment and services subject to bidding, which hurts both patients and providers. Since January 1, patients, clinicians, and homecare providers have already reported:

  • Difficulty finding a local equipment or service provider;
  • Delays in obtaining medically required equipment and services;
  • Longer than necessary hospital stays due to confusion in discharging patients to home-based care;
  • Far fewer choices for patients when selecting equipment or providers;
  • Reduced quality; and
  • Confusing or incorrect information provided by Medicare.

The American Association for Homecare has logged more than 175 complaints from patients, providers, and case managers. A half-dozen home medical equipment providers in the Cincinnati and Cleveland areas have already laid off staff as a result of the bidding program.

"Competitive bidding has negatively impacted both our businesses and the patients who we have served for the past 12 years," said Gary Bajusz, President of Integrated Medical, Inc. in Cleveland. "We just could not sustain our current situation after competitive bidding implementation. I had to close our branch in Mount Vernon, which resulted in the loss of three full-time positions. And in our Cleveland branch, I had to let go two hardworking employees. This move will ultimately hurt some of the Medicare beneficiaries who rely on me and my staff. It pains me to see that, in a time like this, the government is pushing hardworking Americans out of jobs and working against the best interest of our seniors and people living with disabilities."

The American Association for Homecare shared a number of problems with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) earlier in January including:

  • Winning companies awarded contracts by Medicare that are bankrupt.
  • Winning companies that are not licensed to provide items or services. 
  • Winning companies that have credit problems.
  • Incorrect information distributed by Medicare about the contract winners and which beneficiaries need to change home medical equipment providers.

The design and implementation of the bidding system alarm Bajusz and more than 167 leading economists and auction experts, including two Nobel laureates, who warned Congress that this bidding system will fail.  The economic experts who predict failure are not opposed to competitive bidding for Medicare, and in fact many of them design market-based auction systems. But they found that this particular bidding program, as it is designed by CMS, has irreparable flaws that will prevent it from achieving its objectives of low cost and high quality equipment and services.

Also opposing the controversial bidding program are more than a dozen national consumer and patient advocacy groups including the ALS Association, American Association of People with Disabilities, Muscular Dystrophy Association, National Council on Independent Living, National Spinal Cord Injury Association, and United Spinal Association. Last year, a bipartisan group of 257 members of the U.S. House of Representatives supported legislation to repeal the controversial bidding program.

Medicare beneficiaries, family members, caregivers, hospital discharge planners, and clinicians can report problems, concerns, and feedback about this bidding system by calling a toll-free number, 1-888-990-0499, or by visiting the website: www.biddingfeedback.com.  To learn more, visit www.aahomecare.org/competitivebidding.

The American Association for Homecare represents durable medical equipment providers, manufacturers, and other organizations in the homecare community. Members serve the medical needs of millions of Americans who require oxygen equipment and therapy, mobility assistive technologies, medical supplies, inhalation drug therapy, home infusion, and other medical equipment and services in their homes. The Association's members operate more than 3,000 homecare locations in all 50 states. Visit www.aahomecare.org/athome.


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SOURCE American Association for Homecare
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