Since its passage in 2008, the COPD Foundation has been committed to monitoring the implementation of Competitive Bidding throughout the country. We believe it is a failed piece of legislation that harms patients. Since its rollout, oxygen access has become less certain for many patients. The COPD Foundation’s policy team has been working diligently with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS), along with DME partners and concerned community members to limit the effects of this detrimental policy.
The Competitive Bidding program means companies that provide your oxygen equipment will have to submit bids to Medicare reflecting the lowest price they can provide for the supplies. Medicare will then choose approved companies (called contract suppliers) and set the price based on the bids that were submitted. The supplies impacted by Competitive Bidding, called durable medical equipment (DME), include oxygen concentrators, walkers, wheel chairs, prosthetic limbs, hospital beds, and mail order diabetes products, among many others. The intention of the bill was to increase competition among DME suppliers and save the government and taxpayers money. However since implementation, there has been an alarming reduction in liquid oxygen access, a more portable and lighter option preferred by many patients which enables them to continue their every day activities. Additionally, we have seen nationwide cuts to service and delivery options.
Our most recent efforts are around lobbying for the passage of S.2736 and H.R. 5210, the Patient Access to Durable Medical Equipment Act (PADME). The PADME Act’s main purpose is to delay the next phase of reimbursement cuts for rural areas by 15 months (October 1, 2017). In addition, it addressed a number of technical issues related to competitive bidding and required a monthly report by CMS to monitor the impact of the cuts on Medicare beneficiary access-access that is critical to millions of COPD patients across the nation.
The COPD Foundation and its many partners were thrilled when PADME passed both the House and Senate this summer. However, each chamber passed slightly different versions of PADME, so now we are working with leaders in both the House and Senate to pass the same version of PADME.
In addition to its most importance piece, delaying the roll-out of Competitive Bidding, the COPD Foundation was pleased that HR5210 also included patient-input by requiring CMS to further engage stakeholders and to track and publicly post complaints and outcomes. This is particularly important for rural providers who have struggled to remain competitive with rates being set by larger, more urban providers.
We urge you to join us in this fight by getting involved and sending a letter to your representatives. It takes five minutes to send the letter – such a simple action could benefit the millions of Americans with COPD. Each day COPD patients experience additional challenges accessing life-saving oxygen. The changes instituted by PADME will be one important step towards restoring access to safe, quality and appropriate oxygen therapy.
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