Bush budget doesn’t mention NCB

Monday, March 31, 2003

WASHINGTON -  Nowhere to be found among the sweeping changes to Medicare and Medicaid proposed by President Bush in his recent budget is competitive bidding.

The absence of any language that pertains to competitive bidding for durable medical equipment is a first since the days of Ronald Reagan. Although critics of competitive bidding are hailing the president’s ignorance of the dicey paradigm shift for reimbursement, they also stop short of saying it was deliberately left out.

“It would be premature to say that he (President Bush) has withdrawn his support for competitive bidding,” said Dave Williams, Invacare’s director of government relations. “He just didn’t enumerate it as one of the changes.”

If the budget does not contain 2language on competitive bidding, it does refer to the need to make rational Medicare payments and to places where Medicare overpays providers, according to Asela Cuervo, AAHomecare’s senior vice president of government relations and general counsel.

“So, the cost-cutting overview or background is not gone,” she said. “We still have an issue with the fact that the Medicare program is going to need money to pay for prescription drugs and other provider relief.”

While competitive bidding may have fallen off the president’s radar screen, Cuervo and Williams say that Congress is still very much interested in the cost-cutting strategy.

“Ultimately, the battle on competitive bidding will be won or lost in the Senate,” said Williams. “But the fact that the president didn’t include it in his budget is cause for optimism.” HME