Leavitt's Commentary Defends Derailed NCB

Following yesterday's presidential veto of H.R. 6331, the Medicare doc-fix bill that also would reform competitive bidding, Health & Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt wrote an op-ed piece for the Washington Times and staunchly defended the controversial program.

Competitive bidding launched on July 1 in the program's first 10 areas, but was put on hold yesterday when Congress swiftly and decisively overrode President Bush's veto.

At the time he wrote the commentary, Bush's veto was still in place, and Leavitt said he supported the general idea of a "doc-fix," a plan to reverse deep funding cuts to physicians who treat Medicare beneficiaries.

But Leavitt continued to strongly defend competitive bidding, saying, "I can't explain why some members of Congress think that is a bad deal, except that some seem to believe it's always better to have government set a price, however high, than for the market to decide the matter."

Faced with the fact that participating HME suppliers will be able to apply for compensation from CMS, Leavitt said, "The bill would kill the contracts Medicare has already signed with DME suppliers. Adding insult to injury, it would also require my department to spend Medicare Trust Fund money to pay for any damages resulting from the cancellation of those contracts."

To read Leavitt's Washington Times commentary in full, click HERE.

Leavitt's sentiment stood in sharp contrast to the mood of the DME industry on Wednesday. Because the Senate veto override happened late on Tuesday afternoon, some suppliers undoubtedly were unaware of the news until they went to the office on Wednesday morning.

"Congress Overturns President's Veto of the Medicare Bill -- H.R. 6331 Becomes Law," the American Association for Homecare (AAHomecare) Web site home page.

The VGM Group's home page was even more succinct.

"We Won -- Congratulations!" the page read, while an accompanying story encouraged providers to thank legislators who had made the veto override possible.

This is a Breaking News story. Please check back for updates and additional stories on this topic. 

About the Author

Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at lwatanabe@1105media.com.

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