Thursday, September 30, 2004

Publisher, HME News

On Sept. 3, the Department of Health and Human Services announced a 17.4% boost in new Medicare Part B premiums for 2005. While not a lot in absolute dollar terms, an increase of this magnitude will surely impact both retirees on fixed incomes as well as low-income workers. And it raises a couple of questions.

First, what happened to the savings that will result from the cuts in Medicare reimbursement to providers? Are we to interpret this to mean that CMS isn’t serious about FEHPB and the proposed 89% cut in respiratory meds? Are they hedging their bets by continuing to raise revenue so they’re covered in case the reductions don’t materialize? I don’t think so, but it’s interesting to speculate.

The second question is, doesn’t this sort of an increase argue for a much greater emphasis on care at home? With a well-known patient preference and demonstrated cost savings, shouldn’t there be a focus on increasing home care and providing the funding to see that not only is the appropriate equipment provided, but both patient and equipment receive the attention they need?

We have no argument with providing “access to high-quality physician services” to Medicare recipients. But once the patient is evaluated and the CMN submitted, shouldn’t the focus be on the most efficient and best way to provide service to a patient and not on squeezing the very providers of that service? Inquiring minds want to know.