It's a town of history and current events, of patriots and
politicians — a place where promises seem more easily made
than kept. Washington, D. C., is a city of contradictions, and a
fitting venue for political opinions that are, more often than not,
on opposite ends of the spectrum.
But this summer something very unusual is happening in
the Capitol City. Lawmakers are working together to overhaul
Medicare. Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives
alike are betting on the plan. And legislators are working quickly,
something else that's out of the ordinary in Washington.
After years of political stalemate, Medicare reform moved
suddenly into real time as the effort picked up steam last month.
In only a matter of days, the measure sailed through committee
markup in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. And
just like that, the specter of competitive bidding became real.
There is no question that Medicare needs reform. Analysts
project that the overburdened program, which now serves more than
40 million older Americans, will be bankrupt by 2026.
So, while proposing the addition of a $400 billion benefit to
help seniors pay their prescription bills — something almost
every political leader in Washington has pledged — the 108th
Congress also is endeavoring to shore up Medicare's finances. The
Senate version of the bill calls for a price freeze on DME
reimbursement to reduce costs. In contrast, the House bill contains
a national competitive bidding provision that would grant Medicare
business to the lowest bidders for a three-year period. The set-up
would limit choice, and could lower quality of care, for the very
beneficiaries that Medicare is trying to help. Not to mention that
it would jeopardize small providers — the industry's backbone
— by shifting the focus from service to price.
While the outcome of final legislation is in question as
HomeCare goes to press, this time around Congress is poised
to act on Medicare reform. President Bush has called for a bill on
his desk this month.
The coming days will be critical in reaching out to Congress.
Call your elected officials and tell them how the Medicare reform
measures they are considering would affect the future of your HME
business — and your patients' care.
Give them your opinions before they take away your free