Consumer, patient groups seek to repeal Medicare bidding program

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Citing reduced access to care and higher costs, two dozen consumer and patient advocacy organizations sent a letter of thanks this week to Reps. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., and Jason Altmire, D-Pa., for introducing H.R. 1041, a bipartisan bill to repeal Medicare’s bidding program for home medical equipment and services (HME).

Among the groups signing the letter are the Muscular Dystrophy Association, the American Association of People with Disabilities and the National Family Caregivers Association. The “Fairness in Medicare Bidding Act” (H.R. 1041) was introduced March 11, and has 53 cosponsors, including 30 Republicans and 23 Democrats.

The Medicare bidding program applies to home medical equipment and services, such as medically required oxygen therapy, enteral nutrients (tube feeding), continuous positive air pressure (CPAP) and respiratory assistive devices, power wheelchairs, walkers, hospital beds, hospital support surfaces and mail-order diabetic supplies.

The bidding program was implemented on Jan. 1 in nine metropolitan areas including Charlotte, N.C., Cincinnati and Cleveland, Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, Kansas City, Mo., Miami and Orlando, Fla., Pittsburgh and Riverside, Calif. The program is scheduled to expand to an additional 91 areas later this year.

In addition to various consumer and patient groups, several medical and long-term care groups support H.R. 1041, including the American Association for Homecare, the National Association for Home Care and Hospice, the National Association for the Support of Long Term Care and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC).