NCAMES Travels to D.C. for Packed Hearing on Restrictive Medicare Program
U.S. House Subcommittee Hears Horror Stories on “Competitive Bidding” Affecting Home Health Care Patients, Providers
(Washington, D.C.) North Carolina’s leader in home medical equipment advocacy and education, NCAMES, joined HME providers from across the state in Washington, D.C. recently for the U.S. House Energy & Commerce Health Subcommittee hearing, “Medicare’s Competitive Bidding Program for Durable Medical Equipment: Implications for Quality, Cost and Access.”
The hearing examined the implementation of Medicare’s restrictive “competitive bidding” program launched in nine metropolitan areas across the U.S., including Charlotte. The program dictates which HME providers are allowed by the Federal government to provide mobility equipment, oxygen systems, hospital beds, and other in-home supplies to tens of thousands of seniors and patients in need. The program is forcing long-time HME providers in North Carolina to engage in “suicide bidding” to provide services at below-industry prices, negatively impacting patient access as the handful of bid “winners” as well as hundreds of rejected bidders across the state are forced to contract services or close their doors.
“The testimony at the hearing was overwhelmingly against Medicare’s bidding program, with example after example given of its negative effects like forcing home health care patients into institutional care,” NCAMES Executive Director Beth Bowen said.
According to Bowen, who attended the hearing, Room 2123 of the Rayburn House Office Building was filled to capacity with hundreds of attendees from the home medical equipment industry, as was a separate overflow room.
“Those testifying as part of CMS panels were grilled by the subcommittee, with access to quality care being the central issue driving criticism of the bidding program,” she said, adding, “Even bid ‘winners’ are having such a hard time servicing their loyal customers within the confines of the program that they are against it.”
“The program just isn’t working,” she said.
Bowen and NCAMES are working with North Carolina’s congressional delegation on promoting H.R. 3790, proposed bi-partisan legislation addressing fatal flaws in CMS’ bidding program. Supporters of the bill are seeking companion legislation in the Senate; currently, H.R. 3790 has 256 co-sponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives, with a pretty even split between Democrats and Republicans.
Rep. David Price (D, 4th District), Rep.Virginia Foxx (R, 5th District), Rep.Patrick McHenry (R, 10th District), and Rep. Mel Watt (D, 12th District) have chosen not to sign-on to H.R. 3790.
Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) has so far refused to sponsor companion legislation.
“As a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Senator Hagan has a responsibility to stop the 1,200-1,600 job losses in North Carolina coming from CMS’s bidding program,” Bowen said, adding, “Despite her claims that she’s focused on ‘jobs, jobs, jobs’ Senator Hagan still refuses to address this situation.”
For more information on how CMS’ bidding program is impacting North Carolina patients and businesses, visit SaveJobsNC.com.
With close to 300 member companies and growing, the North Carolina Association for Medical Equipment Services (NCAMES) is the statewide leader in preserving access to safe, affordable, and therapeutic home medical equipment. We provide advocacy and education to home medical equipment (HME) providers statewide dedicated to helping North Carolinas growing senior population and patients of all ages gain more mobility and experience a high quality of life in the comfort and privacy of their own homes. NCAMES was instrumental in passing the nation’s first HME licensure law which has been working to ensure quality home health care since 1995, and fully supports pending legislation H.R. 3790 to continue HME access for patients in need. For more information, visit www.ncames.org or call (919)-387-1221.