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Medicare to expand DME competitive bidding

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Feb. 11, 2013

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Medicare beneficiaries in 91 metropolitan areas will spend less on durable medical equipment under the expansion of a competitive bidding process for the supplies beginning July 1, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Patients are expected to save 45% on items such as wheelchairs and oxygen equipment and an average of 72% on diabetic testing supplies through a mail-order program, CMS announced on Jan. 30. Instituting market rates in Medicare replaces a fee schedule for medical equipment, orthotics and supplies in selected areas. Medicare itself is expected to save more than $25 billion from 2013-22. The savings will be applied to the Medicare trust fund.

“We rigorously reviewed all bids using our bona fide bid process and ensured that only accredited suppliers that met financial standards and applicable licensure requirements are being offered contracts,” said Jonathan Blum, deputy CMS administrator and director of the agency’s Center for Medicare. “This process will ensure that beneficiaries have access to the equipment they need at fair prices.”

Health industry groups such as the American Assn. for Homecare have opposed the bidding program by stating it is designed poorly and impedes patient access. Beneficiaries will encounter issues such as changing equipment suppliers and reduced service quality.

“It’s ironic that a program that is supposed to increase competition among providers is actually reducing competition, costing jobs in communities and putting Medicare patients at risk,” said Tyler Wilson, president of the association, which represents equipment suppliers.

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