VGM Group slams Medicare: NCB targets minorities, poor

Thursday, May 31, 2007

WATERLOO, Iowa - The VGM Group criticized CMS's plan for national competitive bidding sharply in mid-April, claiming the program disproportionately targets poor and Latino beneficiaries.
After analyzing U.S. Census Bureau data, VGM concluded that people living below the poverty level in the initial 10 competitive bidding areas range from 13% (Charlotte, N.C.) to 32% (Cleveland). Across these 10 areas, the poverty level is 19%, compared to 13% nationally. The census data also revealed that 31% of the population in the first 10 bidding areas is Latino, compared to 15% of the country's population nationally.
VGM plans to circulate a press release with this data to its 2,200 members, said Mike Mallaro, VGM's CFO/CIO.
"We're encouraging them that if they feel outraged and troubled by this, to use the press release to contact their local TV and newspaper," Mallaro said. "This doesn't make sense and if the public understood what was happening, they'd never stand for it."
In a press release issued April 12, VGM stated: "Minority and poor beneficiaries are being used as guinea pigs to test the government's theory that 'competitive bidding' for nine product categories will result in savings to Medicare."
In related news, VGM promised to support beneficiary lawsuits being prepared to derail competitive bidding.
Currently, beneficiaries in two of the first 10 competitive bidding areas have expressed interest in suing CMS to stop the reimbursement cut in their communities, said Jim Walsh, VGM's general counsel.
The legal case against competitive bidding hinges on the argument that it creates a two-tiered Medicare system. Beneficiaries in traditional fee-for-service areas continue to enjoy a wide range of products and providers. That's not the case in competitive bidding areas.