MedPAC endorses competitive bidding

Saturday, May 31, 2003

WASHINGTON — An influential Medicare advisory panel agreed at its April meeting that competitive bidding could save money without reducing patient access or quality.

While the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (Med-PAC) endorsed national competitive bidding for DME, the group will refrain from issuing a written recommendation until CMS publishes a final evaulation of the demonstrations in Polk County and Florida. That report could be released this summer. (See related story.)

“It’s very awkward,” said Asela Cuervo, sr. vp of government relations for AAHomecare. “How can they endorse it without knowing what the final study says? I think they are anticipating a (favorable) study along the same lines as the studies that have come out so far.”

MedPAC’s endorsement gives Congress cover if it wants to implement competitive bidding, Cuervo added.

“We have what is supposed to be an independent advisory commission giving Congress advice,” she said. “It makes our burden higher.”

The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) includes 17 members, who bring diverse expertise in the financing and delivery of health services. Many members of Congress consider MedPAC’s annual report gospel.

Rather than an independent body, MedPAC has been acting recently like Rep. Bill Thomas’ “Yes-Man”, said one industry source. Thomas (R-Calif.) is chairman of the House’s powerful Ways and Means committee, and a strong proponent of competitive bidding.

“If you look at their reports over the past year, it’s, ‘What does the chairman need,’” the source said. “Either Bill Thomas is a forward thinker or MedPAC is saying our existence depends on the chairman.”

(Earlier this year, for example, MedPAC endorsed a homecare copayment, another Thomas cause.)

Even without a formal recommendation, MedPAC’s endorsement gives Thomas additional anecdotal information to support a push for competitive bidding, said David Williams, Invacare’s director of government relations. HME