From: Kaiser Health News

The new prices will kick in July 1 and are expected to save on average 45 percent for products such as walkers, wheelchairs, oxygen equipment and other medical products.

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Medicare Expands Competitive Bids For Medical Equipment; Big Savings Seen For Some Seniors Savings are also coming for many patients who rent home oxygen gear, hospital beds, wheelchairs and other equipment. Medicare deputy administrator Jonathan Blum said Wednesday its due to competitive bidding making inroads against wasteful spending (1/30).

Reuters: U.S. Expects Big Medicare Savings From Competitive Bid Program Medicare and its beneficiaries in 100 metropolitan areas will pay less for durable equipment beginning July 1. The new prices, set by competitive bidding, are expected to save 45 percent on average, on products including walkers, wheelchairs, oxygen equipment, hospital beds and prosthetics (Morgan, 1/30).

CQ Healthbeat: Medicare Patients In 91 Cities May Face Supplier Switch, But Will Save Big On Gear Medicare beneficiaries in 91 cities will save an average of 45 percent a month on wheelchairs and other medical equipment starting this summer thanks to the expansion of a competitive bidding program, federal officials announced Wednesday. Beneficiaries will also save an average of 72 percent on diabetic testing supplies under a national mail-order program starting at the same time, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said in a news release (Reichard, 1/30).

In related news —

The Washington Post: Medicare To Adjust Payment For Dialysis Drugs After Overspending Millions The Medicare system is recalculating how much it will reimburse hospitals and clinics for the drugs used to treat dialysis patients after federal auditors found recently that the program could save as much as $880 million annually. An analysis by The Washington Post in August showed that the government was overspending by hundreds of millions for just one group of those drugs (Whoriskey, 1/30).

Additional Medicare headlines —

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: A Wish List For Medicare The three (former Medicare administrators) want to see a permanent fix for the payment formula for doctors. That formula, called the sustainable growth rate, or SGR, has threatened large payment cuts nearly every year since being implemented and Congress has repeatedly stepped in to stop it. And all said it’s high time Congress confirms a CMS administrator (Carey, 1/30).

Kaiser Health News: Fed Economist Steps Into Dispute On Geographic Differences In Health Spending An economist at the Federal Reserve has restoked the debate over the causes of regional differences in Medicare spending, and her analysis disputes some of the thinking behind a number of policy changes in the 2010 health law (Rau, 1/30).

The Medicare NewsGroup: Fact/Fiction: Medicare Beneficiaries Pay The Same Amount For Medicare, Regardless Of How Much Money They Have Premiums for Medicare Medical Insurance (Part B) and Medicare Prescription Drug Plans (Part D) are already tied to beneficiaries’ income levels. In a more indirect form, Medicare Hospital Insurance (Part A) is also tied to income. … Within the context of Medicare reform, some policymakers explain that what they are proposing as parts of proposals to either save the program money or as a deficit-reduction strategy is an expansion on means-testing for the program (Solana, 1/30).

Medpage Today: Medicare Panel Pans Alzheimer’s Test A Medicare advisory panel expressed little support Wednesday for the idea that an imaging technology for the beta-amyloid protein tied to Alzheimer’s disease changes health outcomes. Using a scale of 1 for “low confidence” and 5 for “high confidence,” the 12-member Medicare Evidence Development and Coverage Advisory Committee (MEDCAC) responded with an average vote of 2.1667 on how confident they were that PET scans to detect beta-amyloid protein in the brain improved health outcomes in patients who show early signs of cognitive dysfunction. Panelists expressed their concerns that the benefits of a Medicare patient knowing they tested positive for beta amyloid were outweighed by the possible false positives and other issues that come with that knowledge (Pittman, 1/30).

And from Capitol Hill –

Politico: Brady To Take On Medicare Challenges Congress has done little but bicker over Medicare for the past few years, but Rep. Kevin Brady still thinks he has a shot at fixing the program now that he’s leading a powerful health panel. As newly installed Health Subcommittee chairman for the Ways and Means Committee, the Texas Republican is already working on two projects that lawmakers have pushed to the back burner for years because they were too contentious to solve (Cunningham, 1/31).