Saturday, May 31, 2003

NCB: Mums the word
With John Gallagher

Q. In light of MedPAC’s April 24 meeting and Congress’ mood, would it be a good idea to plan ahead for National Competitive Bidding for Medicare?

A. Maybe, but if you do, please keep it to yourself! The federal Medical Payment Advisory Committee (MedPAC) has always been in favor of competitive bidding, so there really isn’t any “news” value to their recent qualified report that the demonstrations didn’t appear to impact access or quality of care. The next few months are critical. Medicare reform legislation is almost certain to come up. When it does, NCB will likely be a part of the funding for new benefits.

Although the HME industry has many friends in Congress, it will be difficult for them to fight for us with the “record” as it now stands. The MedPAC reports do not help.

The battle will most likely be fought in House and Senate committees and a post-passage conference committee. It is very unlikely that there will ever be a general vote on NCB in either the House or Senate. Any suggestion that some in the industry believe that “big savings” are possible under NCB or that adoption of it won’t result in loss of access, choice, and quality of care to beneficiaries, will make it even more difficult for those who support us to offer arguments and alternatives.

John Gallagher is The VGM Groups vp of gov’t affairs at 319-235-7100.