Rural residents will have to travel dozens of miles for HME

Friday, December 11, 2015

WATERLOO, Iowa – Residents in rural states will have to travel further to reach an HME provider when Medicare applies competitive bid pricing nationwide on Jan. 1, according to a new study.

Residents living in rural areas in Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington state, West Virginia and Wisconsin will all be affected by the change, according to the study from the GeoTree Center at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls.

In North Dakota, for example, residents in rural areas will have to travel 53 miles to access an HME provider. The study estimates there will be 6,171 square miles per provider in the state.

“HME suppliers in rural areas contend with different business challenges, such as the cost of delivery and smaller patient volume, that are not accounted for in this across-the-board cut,” said John Gallagher, vice president-government relations for VGM, in a release. “Businesses will be put in dire situations, forcing coverage reduction or even closures. Naturally, when there are fewer providers, patient access suffers, hospital discharges are delayed, which costs the government more money.”

The study, commissioned by The VGM Group, is a continuation of an earlier study published in August that showed similar results for five other rural states.

Since Medicare launched competitive bidding, there has been a 17% decrease in the number of providers throughout the U.S., according to VGM.

Stakeholders are trying to stave off the expansion of bid pricing to rural areas with bills in both the House of Representatives and Senate.