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Pains of rural rollout of competitive bidding already being felt by beneficiaries

In a letter from HOMES President, Karyn Estrella outlines the difficulties providers face with reimbursement cuts and the challenges that patients will be facing to access the vital equipment they depend on.

Dear John,

It hasn’t even been a full week since the implementation of Medicare’s rural cuts to home medical equipment on January 1st and HOMES has already received notification from a congressional office about a beneficiary complaint/concern.  Late yesterday afternoon, we received an email from Rep. Peter Welch’s district office about a phone call they received from a constituent who uses oxygen 24/7 and is concerned about how the recent reimbursement cut would impact him in an emergency.

“He is deeply concerned that if the electricity at his house goes out, he will be unable to receive emergency oxygen from a provider. What can you tell me about emergency oxygen and what, if anything, he can do”, the email stated.

In my follow up conversation with the congressman’s office, I shared how oxygen providers emergency response plans have most likely changed because of these cuts. Granted, all of our members must make their own business decisions of how they are going to manage these cuts but the days of delivering an unlimited number of oxygen tanks are most likely gone. I shared what we are hearing from our members about some the options now available to oxygen users in emergency situations and it is a far cry from what they received prior to these cuts. Unfortunately, the burden is being shifted to the beneficiary.

I assured [Welch’s office] that these are not easy decisions for our members to make but they have no choice based on the new reimbursement rate.  And because of the cap on oxygen equipment, their constituent may not have the option of changing to a new provider even if they wanted to (the congressman’s representative was not aware of the cap). They will be following up with the constituent and I offered to help with additional information if necessary.

We will be soliciting information from our members in the coming weeks (keep an eye out for a member survey soon). We encourage our members who may be receiving customer complaints to direct them to call their congressman and senators. For a Senate/Representative contact list, go to the HOMES Advocacy page.

It’s time to turn up the volume!

We urge you to visit the VGM Action Center and submitting your stories about competitive bidding and reach out to your state association to ensure that Congress hears your voice!