The National Council on Independent Living is deeply concerned about the ability of people with physical disabilities to live independently following the government’s announcement of a significant cut in reimbursement rates for small and large businesses across the country that provide vital home medical equipment to Medicare beneficiaries.
In setting rates for Round Two of its dangerous and defective bidding program, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) said that starting July 1, reimbursement rates for items such as oxygen therapy, power wheelchairs, and hospital beds will be slashed an average of 45%, with diabetic strip reimbursement rates plunging an average of 72%.
Under the current bidding program, Medicare is determining what providers its beneficiaries can use and also sets the equipment prices in metropolitan areas across the country. In Round Two of the program, which takes effect in July, the ill-advised process will be expanded to include more locations in California, Ohio, Maryland, Florida, Massachusetts, Illinois and other states.
The bidding program restricts access to, and choice of, home medical equipment items and services by forcing consumers to use certain providers whether they furnish the products and services that provide the most benefit or not.
With fewer providers allowed to provide products and services, normal expedient deliveries of items and services are being eliminated, and therefore Medicare costs are actually increasing because people are experiencing longer hospital stays and may require more frequent visits to the doctor.
NCIL supports the Market Pricing Program (MPP) that was introduced as legislation by Representative Tom Price from Georgia in September, which collected 94 co-sponsors. The MPP program would replace Medicare’s current poorly designed bidding program and is a giant leap forward from the current process, which leaves many people with disabilities unable to get the equipment and services that they need to live independently. The legislation will be re-introduced in the new Congress.
Although legislation can help eliminate the dangers created by this program, it will never pass unless members of the House and Senate understand that it is actually reducing access and support for their constituents with disabilities. Members of Congress are not hearing about the issues that people with disabilities are having under this program, which is why NCIL’s focus is encouraging our members and individuals who are suffering as a result of this program to contact their lawmakers and tell them what is really happening.