- By Laurie Watanabe
- Oct 01, 2017
Across the street from me lives a dear friend I’ll call Grace. She reminds me of an actress from Hollywood’s Golden Age. She still gets her hair done every week, and seemingly is always in tailored clothes, even when just getting her mail.
And at almost 92, Grace is still full of fire.
“I hate seniors,” she’s told me. “They’re so intolerant of young people. Every generation thinks the next generation’s music is awful. But it’s not. You just have to open your mind a little. Try new things.”
She pauses to give a disgruntled hmphhh.
“But they don’t want to. That’s why I hate seniors.”
Grace has slowed a bit the last few years, tethered now to a home oxygen system. She knows a little of what I do, so the last time I was at her house, she showed me a small stack of letters: “Honey, can you read these?”
The letters were from an oxygen supplier who was going out of business and needed their equipment back. Grace had ignored the first few letters, till one came with Final Notice stamped in red.
She needed to find another supplier, I said. She knew, but her adult kids had been turned away by other local DME suppliers.
“They said they couldn’t take me,” Grace said. “That makes no sense.”
I tried a brief explanation of Medicare’s competitive bidding program and confirmed that not every oxygen supplier can work with Medicare beneficiaries anymore.
“Well, I called Medicare,” Grace said, “and a nice young man gave me phone numbers, but some of those suppliers aren’t even in California! I found one that’s local, but they said I have to qualify all over again. Is my oxygen supplier going to take my tanks right now? I need those!”
Grace has been independent her whole life. It’s so wrong that now, when she needs a little help, an inherently flawed competitive bidding system is causing this level of anxiety.
The folks at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services still insist that access to DME hasn’t been impacted. I want to walk them across the street.
Grace’s oxygen supplier eventually told her to keep the tanks as long as she needed. The next day, VGM (thank you, Greg Packer) offered their assistance.
But what happens to all the other Graces — those who don’t live across the street from an editor who covers this industry?
If the lamp in my home office window is on too late, Grace calls me in the morning. “You work too much,” she grumbles. “I watched your window, and I saw what time you turned the light out last night.”
These are the people who raised us and built our communities and are still looking after us. They deserve so much better. We all do.
This article originally appeared in the October 2017 issue of Mobility Management.
Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.