Lawmakers: NCB will disenfranchise blacks

Sunday, November 9, 2003

November 10, 2003

WASHINGTON - A New York Congressman has objected to Congressional consideration of competitive bidding for DMEPOS suppliers on the grounds that such a program would disenfranchise African-Americans and create two classes of homecare in Medicare.

In a letter that Edolphus “Ed” Towns, D.-N.Y., addressed to reconciliation committees leaders Oct. 30, Towns described the two classes as “(1) an urban class subjected to sub-standard care provided by the lowest bidder, and (2) a suburban/rural class receiving quality-based care derived from existing market forces.”

Towns’ letter presumes a proposal that would implement competitive bidding only in those Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) with populations that exceed one million.

The urban lawmaker’s objection, which was co-signed by four other members of Congress and made the cover of today’s CQ (Congressional Quarterly) newsletter, introduces a new front in the fight against the unpopular new reimbursement mechanism.

Towns “is very instrumental in the activities of the Congressional black caucus,” said AAHomecare’s director of public policy, Seth Johnson. “Since he’s on the Energy and Commerce Committee, he’s been out front on COPD issues before.”

Town’s worries that since blacks suffer disproportionately higher rates of respiratory disease, the lack of a qualified pool of home respiratory providers will force greater numbers of African Americans into the most costly settings for care.

“We believe that under a competitive bidding system, service levels will be scaled back dramatically and lower quality medical equipment will be provided,” Towns wrote. “It is simply unacceptable to subject urban African Americans to a competitive bidding system that has not been adequately understood and tested on a large scale.”

Last week, strident objections to competitive bidding by several Senators and a pivotal Republican Congressman, also stirred the news in CQ and Roll Call.

In this week’s issue of Roll Call, a full page ad announced that “Competitive Bidding Won’t Work For America’s Seniors With Diabetes.” The ad, which ran in the form of a letter addressed to Medicare Reform Conferees, was signed by more than 250 healthcare professionals and was placed by the Coaltion for Access to Medical Services Equipment and technology, of which AAHomecare is a principal member.

AAhomecare’s Johnson said the trade group has heard that the senators and Congressman have set a deadline of 3:30 p.m. tomorrow for resolution of the Medicare drug reform proposal.