Beginning Jan. 1, 2016 Medicare began phasing in the first of two cuts to Home Medical Equipment, Supplies and Services, covered under MedicarePart B.
The second phase of cuts is slated for July 1, 2016. By July 1, 2016, the average cut will be approximately 40 percent according to The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
A Fact Sheet released by CMS on November 23, 2015 announced the first of these cuts specifically targeting rural areas across the country. The cuts are based on a Medicare Competitive Bidding program that 244 concerned auction experts warned in a letter to President Obama, stating the program has “obvious flaws.”
These cuts will affect many items Medicare Beneficiaries need such as oxygen, CPAPs, hospital beds, walkers and wheelchairs. This type of equipment is provided so that Medicare beneficiaries can be cared for in their home, in lieu of requiring hospitalization or long term care. This equipment is vital for many to maintain independence and live a better quality of life.
Since no business can survive an average cut of 40%, the providers of home medical equipment, supplies and services, will be forced to make drastic changes to stay in business. Many of these changes will impact Medicare beneficiaries’ access to these items and will increase their out of pocket costs.
“Not only does this put seniors at risk of not having access to the equipment, supplies and services they need to be cared for in their home, but it puts them in jeopardy of sizable out-of-pocket expenses like they have never seen before,” says Patrick Naeger, President of the Midwest Association for Medical Equipment Services (MAMES), a regional association home medical equipment, supplies and service providers in the Midwest. “What CMS (Medicare) is doing is unconscionable and is likely to be brutally harmful to some of our most vulnerable citizens.”
Medicare beneficiaries have already seen an example of these kinds of cuts to their testing supplies they use in the treatment of their diabetes. In 2013, Medicare put in a nationwide competitive bidding program for diabetic testing supplies that slashed payment in excess of 70 percent. All the while, Medicare officials have boasted of the significant money this program has saved, and that ensured beneficiaries would still maintain access to high quality equipment and supplies. However, a National Minority Quality Forum Report found adverse health consequences were detected and can be associated with the competitive bidding program among patients with diabetes.
The providers of home medical equipment, supplies and services, on behalf of their patients, have strongly voiced their concerns with Medicare officials and members of Congress to try to prevent these cuts from occurring. At this time, the only way these drastic cuts can be reversed is through Congressional action.
Medicare beneficiaries and their families are urgently encouraged to contact their members of Congress and let them know that they needCongress to stop the drastic Medicare cuts and protect their access to home medical equipment, supplies and services in your community. They should call the Congressional Switchboard at 1-866-338-1015 or go to www.contactingthecongress.org.