Friday, January 31, 2003

Where to save money
With Martin Szmal

Q. Where should Congress look to save money on healthcare expenditures?

A. According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), healthcare spending in the United States rose to $1.4 trillion in 2001, an 8.7% increase over the previous year.

Due in part to increases in reimbursement to hospitals, home health agencies and nursing homes that were implemented in 2001 through BIPA, Medicare spending on health care increased by 7.8%. Medicaid spending, however, increased by 10.8% due to an 8.5% increase in Medicaid enrollment and in part to the national recession. This, as many providers are painfully aware of, contributed to state budgetary shortfalls that inevitably led to programs with reduced reimbursement rates. The Bush Administration, the 108th Congress and CMS will almost certainly look at this report to try to justify a major overhaul to the healthcare system. We need to be more vocal and vigilant than in the past to educate legislators that home health care and HME are cost effective and will provide an overall reduction in hospital and nursing home expenditures. Instead of looking to reduce the reimbursement for the equipment and services we provide, they should be looking for ways to keep this industry healthy and paying for services not currently reimbursed. The next time you have a chance to express your views to your local representatives, ask them where they would prefer to recuperate from an illness or accident and mention how invaluable HME and services are to individuals and the healthcare system.

Martin Szmal is director of government affairs for Pride Mobility Products. Reach him at 800-800-8586.