Does Competitive Bidding Target the Poor?

Competitive bidding is expected to limit patient access to DME, harm small businesses and possibly discourage manufacturers from investing in the R&D that leads to technological innovations. But is it also specifically targeting ethnic minorities and the poor?

That’s a question being raised by the VGM Group.

“Minority and poor beneficiaries are being used as guinea pigs to test the government’s theory that ‘competitive bidding’ for nine product categories will result in savings to Medicare,” says Mike Mallaro, VGM CFO/CIO. For instance, VGM points out that U.S. Census data show 15 percent of the U.S. population is Latino, but that Latinos make up 31 percent of the population in the first 10 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) selected by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to initially participate in competitive bidding.

Similarly, 13 percent of the overall American population lives in poverty, but 19 percent of the population in the first 10 MSAs lives below the poverty line.

Mallaro said targeting the poor and Latino-Americans would be “absolutely un-American and in my opinion, unconscionable.” VGM sent press releases to its members in the first 10 MSAs so they could relay their concerns to local media.

Mallaro added that competitive bidding will create a “two-tier health-care system” in which “those who can afford to pay for technologically advanced equipment and traditional levels of service, which naturally cost more, will be able to do so. In the meantime, poor patients and many minorities will be forced to accept the cheapest equipment from the lowest bidder.”

This article originally appeared in the June 2007 issue of Mobility Management.

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