Rep. Price: "Competitive Bidding Is Hardly Competitive"

At a reception to welcome consumer organizations exhibiting at Medtrade in Atlanta last week, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) said Medicare's competitive bidding program for DMEPOS "is hardly competitive."

In September, Price introduced H.R. 6490, which would replace competitive bidding with the Market Pricing Program (MPP). The MPP would include the same DME product categories currently included in the competitive bidding program, but would use smaller bid areas and would require bids to be binding to ensure that bidders were serious about participating.

Bidders would also need to provide cash deposits. In each market area subjected to the program, two product categories would be auctioned, with prices for the eight other product categories being adjusted according to auctions in other comparable regions.

At press time, the bill had 19 co-sponsors.

Price, an orthopedic surgeon, addressed stakeholders at the Power for Funding reception, co-hosted by MK Battery and Medtrade, on the morning of Oct. 16.

He began by saying, "Thank you for all you do to help patients," then went on to share his perspective on why Medicare's competitive bidding program - criticized by a number of independent financial analysts and academics -- still looms large over the industry.

"Unless we make the right diagnosis, it's hard to treat the patient," Price said. And when it comes to making healthcare policy, he added, "So often the policy maker's problem that they identify is different" from problems that healthcare providers see.

"There's a whole lot of money in healthcare," Price pointed out. "That's a problem. That's why you're in the crosshairs, because of the money.

"Competitive bidding is hardly competitive, and it doesn't address the core issue, which is taking care of the patients."

Saying that he believes competitive bidding is clinically destructive to patients' welfare, Price urged Medtrade attendees to continue educating members of Congress about the fact that the current program is harmful to those legislators' constituents.

"And we have a better idea," Price added, referring to H.R. 6490.

As for the industry's next steps, Price said, "We need to concentrate on the committees of jurisdiction" to garner more support for the bill, and he encouraged industry members to seek bipartisan support.

"The conversation at the end of this year must include this issue," he noted. "With the current policy, people are being harmed. The problem isn't just the 'line item,' it's also quality care."

The good news: Price confirmed "The facts are on your side," referring to home-based healthcare as being not just less expensive than institutional care, but also having better outcomes and being preferred by patients themselves.

"Don't ever let your guard down," Price said. "Don't ever quit in this process."

About the Author

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

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