PMDs: Congressman sides with OIG

Sunday, November 11, 2007

WASHINGTON - It appears an influential member of Congress has jumped onboard the Office of Inspector General's bandwagon about pricing for power mobility devices, AAHomecare has reported.

Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., sent a "dear colleague" letter to representatives last week, alerting them to an Oct. 31 OIG report that suggests Medicare should set prices for PMDs by using lower Internet prices.

In his letter, Stark says, "Based on this analysis, the OIG concludes that lower prices for wheelchairs--and savings--are available to consumers and the Medicare program."

AAHomecare plans to schedule meetings with both Stark and Daniel Levinson, who heads up the OIG, to rebut the "apples-and-oranges" comparison in the OIG report.

"This study and the flawed comparison of Medicare and Internet pricing will be used by some members in Congress as cover to justify further reimbursement cuts to power wheelchair reimbursement rates," stated AAHomecare President Tyler Wilson.

AAHomecare plans to make the following points to Stark and Levinson:

* The cost of acquiring PMDs through the Internet does not compare to the cost of providing these devices to Medicare beneficiaries due to the need to adhere to appropriate standards of care.

* In an April 2004 report, "A Comparison of Prices for Power Wheelchairs in the Medicare Program," the OIG acknowledged that, "The estimates of potential program savings presented in the findings of the report would be lower if median prices had included any supplier administrative costs."

* Former Inspector General Janet Rehnquist testified before a Congressional subcommittee in 2002 that when CMS compared Medicare prices to Department of Veterans Affairs prices, they included a 67% markup to VA prices.

* Internet pricing does not account for the specialty evaluations performed by certified medical professionals, training, repairs and other non-equipment costs that are required to provide PMDs to Medicare beneficiaries.

* Internet retailers can't comply with Medicare standards. They carry limited product inventories and offer little or no assistance with product set-up, training or repairs.

* Using Internet prices to establish Medicare prices would skew the median price downward because the data doesn't account for all the required services and activities necessary to provide PMDs to Medicare beneficiaries.