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Medicare Patients Losing Access to Quality Home Medical Equipment & Services in Rural America- Take Action!

Home Blog Medicare Patients Losing Access to Quality Home Medical Equipment & Services in Rural America- Take Action!

People for Quality Care Advocate In ScooterMillions of seniors and people with disabilities rely on medical equipment to live safely in their homes. Unfortunately, government policies have created many burdens for these individuals trying to receive medically necessary equipment, services, and supplies. A controversial, new program is sweeping the nation, detrimentally affecting Medicare patients who rely on Home Medical Equipment such as oxygen therapy, wheelchairs, and walkers. Tell your elected officials that you need their help protecting access to your Home Medical Equipment by passing legislative relief. 

Urban Auction Program for Rural America?

Starting in 2011, an auction program called “Competitive Bidding” was implemented in the largest metropolitan areas of the country where companies submitted bids to win one of the few, exclusive contracts to provide home medical equipment to Medicare beneficiaries. The concept was that by offering the opportunity for increased market share and decreased competition, the contracted companies would be able to adjust to the severe price reductions for providing medical equipment, supplies, and services.

The program drew widespread criticism by numerous patient advocacy groups, homecare stakeholders, economists, and auction experts for its design flaws that awarded contracts to those with the cheapest prices and little regard to quality, service, experience, financial health, or presence in the community. Many Medicare patients and family caregivers reported delays in getting needed equipment and services, difficulties in finding companies to perform repairs, and receiving inferior products that the program pricing can barely afford.

In January 2016, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) began a 6-month, 2-part phase in expansion of applying these extreme prices derived from densely populated metropolitan areas like Chicago and Miami into rural and non-urban America, even though these areas never participated in an auction process.  Failing to factor the unique costs of accessing and caring for medically fragile Medicare patients across rural America, CMS slashed reimbursement rates for medical equipment across rural America by upwards of 50-80% on July 1st.

Impact of Bidding Expansion on Medicare Beneficiaries in Rural America

For seniors and individuals with disabilities and chronic conditions in less-populated areas, home medical equipment providers can play a major role in limiting hospitalizations, nursing home stays, and other clinical interventions. However, these irrational, unsustainable prices don’t take into account the additional costs of accessing and serving this rural patient population.

Without adequate funding to cover these costs, trusted home medical equipment companies in these areas are forced to change their delivery and service policies, reduce their product offerings, or shut their business entirely, leaving patients and caregivers in rural to ultimately suffer the consequences.

NEWS STORY: Locally medical equipment stores struggling with impending Medicare reimbursement cuts

We Need Your Help Now!

The next few weeks are critical to getting legislative relief before irrevocable harm occurs. Help us sound the alarm for urgent action to preserve access to Home Medical Equipment in rural America by:

1.   Contact Your Member of Congress

Send a letter to your elected officials asking for their help to provide rural relief. As a constituent, your legislators are interested in hearing from you and are elected to represent your needs in Congress. You can send a customizable message to Congress with our easy messaging tool

2.   Tell Us Your Story – 800-404-8702

Call our Medicare Complaint Hotline to share your experience. This hotline helps get the voices of those experiencing significant challenges accessing medical equipment to Congress. Your story matters!

How Can Congress Intervene?

The drastic rate reduction that took effect on July 1 points to the urgent need for a legislative fix before rural communities lose their local safety-net of medical equipment companies.

Congress has already taken notice of the potential harm these cuts will cause in rural communities, with the House and Senate each passing their own version of the Patient Access to Durable Medical Equipment Act of 2016 (S 2736 and HR 5210). This legislation would have delayed the second round of cuts and instruct the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to monitor and report on how the January 1 cuts are impacting Medicare beneficiaries in rural Areas. 

However, the House and Senate failed to marry their efforts to present a joint message to the White House before adjourning on July 14th, and there isn’t another opportunity for them to address this until they reconvene in September! 

Tell your elected officials how this detrimentally impacts you and ask that they come together to pass immediate relief when they reconvene in September! 

Help protect access to home medical equipment access in rural America.

Take action here

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