"Competitive bidding" creates concern in healthcare industry - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

"Competitive bidding" creates concern in healthcare industry

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WAVERLY (KWWL) -

In just a few weeks, some folks might have trouble getting the medical equipment they need. That's because July 1st marks an expansion of Medicare's "Competitive Bidding" program.

Jennifer Wolff of Waverly is concerned. Wolff has used a wheelchair for more than 10-years.

"It's an essential part of my life to have the adaptive equipment and to have the services that go along with that," said Wolff.

When Wolff needs a repair, she makes a quick phone call to her vendor in Des Moines.

"If I would end up with a flat of something would go wrong with my chair, I need somebody to take care of that pretty quickly otherwise I can't work. I can't leave my house. I'd be homebound and be stuck in one position," she said.

Now Wolff is concerned about the level and quality of in-home medical care.

With the planned expansion of the "Competitive Bidding," equipment providers are required to bid for Medicare contracts to help Medicare beneficiaries. The provider with the lowest bid wins the contract to provide the equipment or service.

But Wolff said the problems happen when determining who that provider is since the cheapest provider might not be local.

Chief Operating Officer of VGM Group Jim Phillips said, "It's going to eliminate their ability to chose who they do business with. It's going to eliminate up to potentially half of the home medical equipment providers in the country. It'll mean a large job loss event for the country, and it'll mean a lack of access for people in the country."

Phillips said the "Competitive Bidding" process has already been rolled out in nine major cities.

He said on July 1st, the requirements will be implemented in 100 major metropolitan areas across the country, including Council Bluffs; but he said it will eventually impact the whole country.

While supporters argue the expansion could lower the cost for medical equipment, people like Wolff said you can't put a price tag on good in-home medical care.

Meanwhile, Congressman Bruce Braley, along with Congressman Glenn Thompson of Pennsylvania, plan to send a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services objecting to the expansion of "Competitive Bidding."

A spokesman from Braley's office said more than 220 members of Congress have signed the letter.

Braley's office said if the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, it will be ready to roll out legislation in opposition of the "Competitive Bidding" expansion. 

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