Over the past month, VGM Group has been conducting the Supplier Impact Survey in an effort to provide policy makers on Capitol Hill with real-world data on the impacts of the nationwide rollout of competitive bidding and the drastic Medicare reimbursement cuts that have come with it. The survey was open for all suppliers regardless of their level of participation in the competitive bidding program in order for the largest eligible sample population.
Over 400 suppliers and practitioners from all over the country, coming from both urban and rural areas, participated representing the DME, CRT, O&P, and numerous other segments of the HME industry. The questions provided in the survey sought out to get feedback to who suppliers are serving, where the patients are located, direct impacts on their business from the competitive bidding program, and patient impacts.
VGM received a response from these data points, and while CMS claims that competitive bidding has had zero negative impacts, a sample of 400 suppliers indicates the harsh reality of this program. Of those surveyed, 91% ‘strongly agree’ that the national rollout of competitive bidding has had a negative impact on their business. Another alarming statistic that came from this survey was the number of positions that have been eliminated within your business due to competitive bidding, 58% of respondents said between 1 and 5, an additional 14% have had to eliminate between 6-15 positions.
Not only is patient access inevitably disrupted with fewer employees and locations to serve patients, the way that patient interaction has also had to change. After the January implementation of competitive bidding nationwide, the program has spread into rural America and 57% of respondents have at least 50% or more of their patient base in rural America. A concerning connection to the amount of business in rural America is how suppliers have been forced to reduce service areas in order to keep their doors open, forcing patients to travel long distances in order to receive equipment. Additionally, 74% of providers either have or plan on doing more non-assigned claims because of the reimbursement cuts over the past six months.
This data has been spread throughout congressional offices in Washington D.C. which warrants action as the July reimbursement rates must be rescinded and a long-term replacement to the competitive bidding program must be put in place which does not produce negative outcomes where patients struggle to receive the equipment that they need. While CMS continues to claim that all is well with competitive bidding, this is yet another real world example that this program is harming supplier’s ability to provide quality medical equipment to seniors and individuals with disabilities.