House Lawmakers Ask Colleagues to Tell CMS to Delay DME Competitive Bidding

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By Nathaniel Weixel  

Two House lawmakers called on colleagues to join in asking the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to delay implementation of Medicare's durable medical equipment (DME) competitive bidding program.

In a letter sent May 17, Reps. Bruce L. Braley (D-Iowa) and Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.) expressed serious concerns about the DME program and asked colleagues to sign on to a letter asking CMS to delay Round Two of the program through the end of 2013.

The goal of the DME program is to improve quality of service and eliminate excess costs within Medicare. CMS said the program is expected to save Medicare Part B about $25.7 billion between 2013 and 2022. Beneficiaries are expected to save an estimated $17.1 billion as a result of lower coinsurance and premium payments, the agency said. The Affordable Care Act required that by 2016, all areas of the country be subject to either DME competitive bidding or payment rate adjustments using competitively bid rates.

The bidding program is set to expand July 1 to 100 areas from nine (69 HCDR, 4/10/13).

The lawmakers in the letter took issue with how the contracts for DME were awarded and asked for CMS to delay implementing the program to fully investigate. “We are extremely concerned that CMS's apparent mishandling of this bid process will directly impact Medicare's ability to serve its beneficiaries in the bid areas,” the lawmakers wrote. “Despite strong Congressional concerns about the lack of transparency, the lack of binding bids during the contract process, and the improper vetting of the financial wherewithal of many firms that have been awarded contracts, CMS still plans to move forward.”

The letter to CMS will be sent later this month, a spokesman for Thompson told BNA.

Buying Group Supportive

Van Miller, chief executive officer and founder of the VGM Group, a national buying group for independent home medical equipment providers, expressed support for the lawmakers' attempt to delay the DME program. “We share the concerns of Congressmen Braley and Thompson that this flawed bidding process will have a serious impact on the ability of medical providers to provide care to Medicare beneficiaries,” Miller said in a May 21 statement. “The competitive bidding program is costly, inefficient, and dangerous. We applaud Congressman Braley and Congressman Thompson for their commitment to ensuring that Medicare beneficiaries have continued access to quality care and equipment. We hope that other members of Congress will follow their lead and join the call for a fairer, more effective bidding system.”