What happened to patient choice?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Customer service is our No. 1 priority and that is why our business has done so well. Our referrals love us also because of the great customer service we give them when they call to place an order for a patient who is being discharged from the hospital and/or nursing home and needs a walker or wheelchair or the portable oxygen tank delivered to them so they can go home. The DMEPOS competitive bidding program that is in place now will not provide this kind of service to the patients.

The program is causing serious access issues for Medicare recipients and also is very harmful to the small business owners. Currently in the Round 2 bidding program, we have providers that do not have current licenses, are not accredited with any accreditation company, and are out of state. In fact, there are some companies that are out of state and have won all the bids in the Chicago area, and the companies in the Chicago area did not win any bids. There are also companies who are in the Northern CBA but won the bid for the Southside CBA. There is no rhyme or reason why this has to be like this. They say it is to save Medicare money, but it will be costing Medicare more money in the long run because if a patient decides not to continue with the company, they can go to a different company and Medicare will start the 13-month rental period again. Also on oxygen, if the patient changes to a different company, not only will they get the 36 months but also an additional 10 months. This not only would cost Medicare more money, but also the insurance companies, the state, and the patients who have to pay the 20% portion or deductibles that are not covered by Medicare or their insurance company.

Another thing is that the patient might have three different companies in their house servicing them depending on the equipment and the company that won the bid for the area for that piece of equipment. This to me would be very confusing to the patients and also detrimental to the continuity of care. According to the standards, the patient has the right to choose—what happened to that standard?

There are also companies who won the bid and were awarded a contract who aren’t even in business anymore. I sure would like to know how CMS determined who should get a bid and who should not, because to me there is no set rule or process, since there are all these problems occurring.

—Deborah Baar, president, Baar Home Medical Equipment, Inc., New Lenox, Ill.