Tom Scully on marketing to Medicare

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Monday, September 30, 2002

In conversation with CMS Admnistrator Tom Scully about nationwide competitive bidding, he had this to say about marketing to Medicare beneficiaries.

HME: Do you question marketing techniques employed by some HME providers, such ads offering 'free' equipment just by calling an 800-number?

TS: Yes. If the government sets up stupid incentives, people will follow them. That is not illegal. As a taxpayer, do I think it's OK to try and sell every person in the world a motorized wheelchair or hospital bed? No. But if the government sets up those dumb incentives, people will do it. That is not illegal. It is my job as a policy maker to fix some of those things.

HME: What are dumb incentives?

TS: I don't' want to go into that. But if you look at the volume of some DME products and services, you could wonder if the volume matches demand.

HME: Couldn't that in part be do to consumers being more aware of their Medicare eligibility?

TS: If you tell them the government is going to pay the whole cost, they don't care. If I said you could have a car tomorrow, whether you needed it or not, you'd probably take it. HME

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