Wheelchair user sounds off on competitive bidding


If you didn't listen to this morning's media conference call on national competitive bidding–sponsored by the Pennsylvania Association of Medical Suppliers (PAMS)–you missed out on one hell of a speaker in Lucy Spruill. Spruill is a wheelchair user and director of public policy and community relations for United Cerebral Palsy of Pittsburgh. She joined Reps. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., and Jason Altmire, D-Pa., in criticizing competitive bidding. Here are some snippets of what she said:

On reduced access:

“(The first round of competitive bidding) would have shunted all of the work currently being done by eight or 10 small- to medium-sized companies in this area to two companies. And the business already exceeds the capability of all those companies. There are often very long waits between ordering a wheelchair and getting it delivered and long waits for getting repairs. If the number of providers is drastically reduced, that’s just going to make a bad situation just completely intolerable.”

On the chaos:

The last time around, it wasn't unlikely that a person who needed, for example, a power wheelchair, oxygen and diabetic supplies, could end up having to deal with three different companies to get their basic medical needs met, some of which would have been out-of-town companies. Let me tell you that is so difficult for an older person or a person with disabilities who's living alone with a complex medical condition."

On the hidden costs:

We're very concerned that if we, again, end up with inexpert bidders, that we're going to consistently get equipment that's not right for us. We know when that happens, one of the results is secondary conditions like bed sores, pneumonia and other infections; depression from staying in the house; and placement in institutions, which is very expensive."

Powerful stuff–stuff that all members of Congress and officials at CMS need to hear.

Liz Beaulieu