Readers weigh in on Medicare NCB

Thursday, June 30, 2005

YARMOUTH, Maine -- Tempers and opinions ran hot last month when dozens of providers weighed in on whether they thought the industry could derail Medicare competitive bidding via a legislative solution.
In all, 185 people responded to the June HME News Poll, with about 30 of those offering comment. The predominant response? That competitive bidding, slated to debut in 2007, would drive small providers out of business, lower service quality and force providers lucky enough to survive to rely on low-quality, inexpensive equipment to help offset reimbursement cuts.
Joel Holland, president of Holland Medical Equipment, in Nashville, Tenn., summed up the general doomsday scenario when he wrote: "It can be extrapolated that reducing profits further will result in less customer service, buying more imports, and buying lower quality, less expensive products. Buying more imports will cause U.S. manufacturers to have to size down or shift manufacturing overseas resulting in the loss of American jobs."
Dennis Teal of Cimarron Medical Services in Stillwater, Okla., wrote that its hard enough to manage "true market forces" and still maintain a viable service company. By adding competitive bidding to the mix, CMS will drive many long-time, quality DME companies out of business.
"I see the continued cuts in reimbursement as eventually depleting the marketplace of quality suppliers and leaving it to large, uncaring mega businesses that are run by bean counters and not people trying to help people and make a fair living," added John Mishasek of Valentine Medical in Colorado Springs, Colo.
A few of those who responded blamed the industry for its current reimbursement woes.
David Woods, president of Surgimed Corp. in Massachusetts, said the industry has failed to make its case that homecare is a less expensive alternative to institutionalized care.
"Our industry needs a better stance than just 'we don't want competitive bidding,'" concurred Jeff Williams of Williams Brothers Health Care Pharmacy in Washington, Ind. "We need a solid alternative that I believe is lacking. We need to work together to find an answer that will convince Congress to change its course. Quite a daunting challenge."