12,000 Cincinnati Area Beneficiaries Join Town Hall On Consequences of Competitive Bidding Program
Cincinnati, OH – Thousands of concerned seniors and caregivers in Cincinnati joined a town hall teleconference call to learn how Medicare’s competitive bidding program will impact access to quality home medical equipment and timely service.
The call, hosted by Last Chance for Patient Choice in conjunction with People for Quality Care (PFQC) and the Ohio Association for Medical Equipment Services (OAMES), brought consumers and health care professionals together to discuss the consequences of Medicare’s program that eliminates local home medical equipment suppliers from providing service to beneficiaries.
Participants heard from panelist Dr. William Scheper, a Cincinnati dentist with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), who credits his ability to continue working to diligent medical equipment providers who service his oxygen needs. He stressed that Medicare’s competitive bidding program inhibits medical equipment suppliers from providing the continued care that helps patients recover from traumatic experience or diagnosis beyond the doctor’s office or hospital.
A female caller discussed her frustrations of the many phone calls she has made to winning providers in search of the equipment she uses. None of the providers carry the brand of oxygen supplies that match her concentrator, for which she must now carry out a 5-year rental contract. “I’ve been stuck in my house with my many oxygen tanks for months now, unable to leave, with the incorrect equipment.”
Physical therapist from the UC Health Drake Center, Paige Thomas, warned of the unintended consequences that occur when patients wait for service and equipment as they have in Cincinnati since competitive bidding went into effect in January 2011. She focused on prevalence of secondary medical complications that occur when patients weaken due to the inability to leave the house and maintain mobility. She also mentioned the potential for hospital discharge delays that were costly from the administrative standpoint and damaging to the wellbeing of a recovering patient.
Caller Craig Rowitz, a representative of Care Medical, Inc., voiced his concern for former customers who once had instant cell phone access to his associates. “Since bidding began, former clients call staff cell phone numbers relying on the familiar relationship they had built for years. It’s really discouraging when my staff members are required to turn former customers down due to this program. Meanwhile the new bid-winning providers for that piece of equipment are based in Tennessee and have told me that they have no plans to relocate to Cincinnati.” Craig’s 25-year-old Cincinnati native business won the competitive bid for complex power wheelchairs, but lost the bid for standard power wheelchairs, hospital beds and walkers, all items he had previously provided to customers.
12,000 residents answered the call to listen to the panel discussion, ask questions and participate in periodic polling throughout. Of those who participated in the poll questions, 84 percent were never informed of the changes in Medicare in the Cincinnati region. Ninety-four percent said that the government should not be allowed to choose their provider for them and 99 percent desired to stay in their own homes as they age. 43 percent were forced to change providers as a result of the competitive bidding program. Two hundred and fifty callers opted to “press-through” and connect with Congress members who represent the Cincinnati competitive bidding area. House members were asked to support H.R. 1041 and senators to create a companion bill, which would repeal competitive bidding.
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