And the winner is...national consumer betrayal (NCB)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

ELYRIA, Ohio - An accreditation coordinator from Hampton, Iowa, and a company CEO from West Plains, Mo., bested 270 other participants in Invacare's contest to rename national competitive bidding. Their winning entry: national consumer betrayal.

"I just don't believe in giving the business to the person who can do it the cheapest," said Graham O'Neal, CEO of West Plains Health Services in West Plains. "You've got to pay your bills, and something has got to give if you don't get enough revenue."

What's going "go give" will be the service Medicare beneficiaries have grown to rely on. That's the betrayal, O'Neal said.

O'Neal splits the $2,500 prize with Hettie Lindley, accreditation coordinator for Long Term Medical Supply Corp. in Hampton.

Invacare CEO Mal Mixon conceived the contest after being told numerous times by Washington lawmakers that the industry needed to better describe (redefine) national competitive bidding. On the surface, competitive bidding seems as American as motherhood and apple pie. That perception has created a real challenge for the industry in its efforts to repeal or modify NCB, Mixon said.

"I think this is a term we can rally around," he said. "The consumer doesn't even know what is going to happen. All of their favorite suppliers are going to be ripped away. People are going to be picking up equipment and saying, 'We don't know who is going to be handling you from this point.' It's fraught with all kinds of pain for the patient and will put small business people out of business in a recession. It's crazy."

Mixon, HME News and AAHomecare CEO Tyler Wilson picked the winning submission.

Some of the other submissions included: nationally controlled benefits, anti-consumer choice act, newly concocted bureaucracy, national provider reduction, no patient left alive, national catastrophic bargaining (the runner up), new communist bureaucracy, never consider beneficiaries, no clear benefit, now a commodity business and non competitive bidding.

Many of the submissions were angry in tone, and that didn't surprise Wilson.

"People were frustrated and used the NCB acronym to come up with something that reflects that level of frustration and anxiety," he said.

When it comes to reimbursement cuts for HME, Medicare uses the "bread dough strategy," said winner Lindley.

"They keep kneading us down and kneading us down and expecting us to rise to the occasion," she said. "In the past, we have done that, but they are going to get to the point where we can no longer rise. I hope the new term does some good."