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Medicare bill sees other effects


WASHINGTON One of the issues involved in the H.R. 6331 bill, the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008, was the delaying of the Medicare competitive bidding program for durable medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics and supplies.

The DMEPOS competitive bidding program went into effect July 1 and was estimated at saving Medicare $1 billion per year, according to Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services already had signed contracts with 325 suppliers to provide specified medical equipment and supplies to Medicare beneficiaries in 10 communities, according to a CMS press release. The bidding program was set to expand to an additional 70 communities next year.

But since the act was passed after the program became effective, all contracts awarded will be terminated, and DMEPOS payment rates in effect prior to July 1 will be reinstated retroactively, according to CMS. The act also pushes the expansion of the bidding program to 2011.

While the president’s main objections to the legislation had to do with its potentially negative impact on Medicare prescription programs, he expressed concern with stopping the DMEPOS bidding program after bids had been awarded.

In his message to the House on July 15 when he originally vetoed the bill, the president called the program an “important reform” that would produce significant savings for Medicare and its beneficiaries. Passage of H.R. 6331 “would leave the Federal Supplementary Medical Insurance Trust Fund vulnerable to litigation because of the awarded contracts,” he said. “Changing a policy in mid-stream is also confusing to beneficiaries who are receiving services from quality suppliers at lower prices.”

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