Politics

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Thursday, February 28, 2002

Bush's budget and HME

WITH TOM CONNAUGHTON
Q. How will the president's proposed budget affect the HME industry?

A. The main concern about this budget is the resurrection of the proposal for national competitive bidding for durable medical equipment and supplies.
Using data reportedly gathered in Polk County, Florida, the budget projects very significant savings from such a national program. Besides the fact that the numbers cited and the extrapolations from those numbers are extremely questionable, the administration has failed to recognize that implementing a competitive bidding program on a national basis is not possible if it truly wants to ensure a choice of providers for beneficiaries. Regions, states, and even counties vary significantly, and it would take a whole new corps of bureaucrats to determine which providers of home medical equipment could serve particular locales under such a system.

The budget also makes no provisions for CPI adjustments. And in comments made by CMS Administrator Tom Scully at a budget briefing on February 5, it is clear that the Administration has not recognized the true value of the services provided by the homecare industry in inhalation and infusion therapies.

I must emphasize that this is only a proposed budget. Indeed, many I have spoken with on Capitol Hill do not think the assumptions underlying the budget are politically realistic. The budget demonstrates, however, that our industry still has much to do in educating policymakers. Those who make public policy should be looking for ways to expand coverage for services and products at home rather than restricting these benefits.

Tom Connaughton is CEO of AAHomecare. Reach him at (703) 836-6730.

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