For those of you that think what happens to Medicare won’t impact you, stop and think about how many people you have seen say that their insurance company follows Medicare guidelines. If you use a local supply store and that store closes because of what is going on with Medicare, that impacts you. Even if you mail order your supplies from a company and that company has to close up shop, you will need to find another supplier. The way Medicare is implementing this program is causing a lot of suppliers to go out of business. When you have to wait weeks or months to get what you need because there are not very many suppliers to choose from, that impacts you.
I first wrote about the Medicare Competitive Bidding Program back in December. That program went into place January 1st in nine areas of the country. Since the program started, there have been numerous problems reported. Medicare however seems oblivious to those problems and is moving forward with round two. At this point, it will not matter whether or not you live in one of the affected areas, if you are diabetic and use test strips, with round two you need to get them from one of the suppliers chosen by Medicare.
If you are using a brand named meter, you can forget about using those test strips. I have already seen numerous stories of people in the 9 areas not able to get the test strips that they had been using. All meters are NOT created equal – here is just one study done on meters. I don’t know about you, but there is a huge difference between my meter saying I am 70 as opposed to my real reading of 40. I have been down that road before. I have also woke up to EMTs over me and that is not something that I ever want to go thru again. I need an accurate meter. Medicare saving money on test strips will only increase the trips to the ER because I don’t know that my blood sugar is low and I am forced to use a meter that can’t tell me that I am low.
I don’t think anyone would disagree that Medicare needs to put price limits on and they should not be paying $200 for something that costs $50. Most insurance companies have agreements with the suppliers that they work with to accept a set fee for that particular supply. What Medicare is doing with the competitive bidding process is opening up bids for an item. The lowest bidder will be the only ones allowed to sell that particular item. What was seen in round one was the bids were going to companies with bad credit and companies that had never even sold the items that they bid on. You are handed a list of suppliers and only have a couple choices. Some supply stores in the first round of the bidding program areas have already had to close.
It is not just test strips being impacted. Things like oxygen, wheelchairs, walkers and even wound supplies are on this list. If someone lands in the hospital and needs to have these items before they can go home, they have to spend extra time in the hospital because instead of a local supply store being at their home when they get home from the hospital with the items they need, it is now being shipped from across the country. How is that saving money? You are shifting the savings in DME to an increase in medical. That does nothing to solve the overall problem.
The big surgery on my foot was scheduled for 1 PM on a Friday afternoon. Prior to my going into surgery, he did not know what the outcome of surgery would be until he opened my foot. Besides having a wound, I broke my foot and he could not tell from the MRI what was damage from the infection or swelling from the break. There was no way to make plans for what I would need when we did not even know what I would need. On Monday morning, the decision was made that I would be discharged from the hospital. Everyone had to scramble to make the arrangements that I would need in order to go home. I was able to get a wheelchair from a local supply company and that wheelchair was waiting for me when I got home from Pittsburgh that afternoon. We had to have the ambulance crew come get me from the car to the wheelchair and then help get me into the house. Had I not been able to get the wheelchair, I would have had to either stay a couple extra days in the hospital or go to into some kind of nursing care. Any savings for having that wheelchair shipped from California would have been eaten alive by extra hospital/nursing days that I was not able to go home.
My case was a “what would have happened” if this program had been in place when I went thru my foot wound. Unfortunately, this exact scenario has been playing out over and over again the nine areas of the country under Medicare’s Competitive Bidding program. As I stated above, increasing medical costs to save money on DME supplies is not the answer. Putting supply companies out of business is not the answer. Setting fair prices is a much better answer and letting companies decide if they want to sell those items at a fair price is a much better answer.
I have written several other articles about the competitive bidding process. I setup a Medicare menu on the lower left hand side of my blog if you want to look at the other articles – the Medicare menu is under the grey-haired lady shaking her head!
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