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NEW YORK — A bill recently introduced in the House of Representatives would delay competitive bidding under Medicare for medical equipment until some issues are resolved.
The bill, H.R. 2375, the Transparency and Accountability in Medicare Billing Act, would delay by at least six months implementation of two rounds of the Medicare durable medical equipment competitive bidding program and the national mail-order program for diabetic testing supplies in order to give Congress the ability to reform the program, allow its evaluation by auction experts and other purposes. Reps. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., and Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, introduced the bill, which received co-sponsorship from Reps. Lou Barletta, R-Pa.; Bill Posey, R-Fla.; Tom Rooney, R-Fla.; Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla.; and C.A. Ruppersberger, D-Md.
"The National Mail Order program policies Medicare is implementing are penny-wise and pound-foolish because they run the significant risk of contributing to more hospitalizations and costly healthcare interventions for diabetes patients," National Community Pharmacists Association CEO B. Douglas Hoey said. "In addition, by steering patients away from their longtime community pharmacist, Medicare's changes fly in the face of bipartisan efforts toward better coordinated care models, such as through medical homes and accountable care organizations."
According to the NCPA, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is preparing to put cuts in place that would reduce pharmacy reimbursement rates for diabetes testing supplies by 72% this year, forcing some pharmacies to stop offering them to seniors, which is of particular concern in rural and inner-city areas. In addition, a definition of "mail order" used by the agency would prohibit independent pharmacies from delivering supplies to homebound seniors and residents of assisted living facilities, the group said.
"Many seniors may experience some disruption as both the providers and the equipment to which they are accustomed may no longer be available to them," Hoey said. "Some beneficiaries have relied on their community pharmacy for decades. There's no justification for banning these trusted providers from furnishing this service to some of Medicare's frailest populations — beneficiaries who are homebound or in assisted living facilities, at no added cost to the government."