If you use a walker, wheelchair or a handful of other select medical equipment, you will likely have to wait longer the next time you place an order. The federal government has been phasing in a competitive bidding program for equipment purchased through Medicare. YNN's Katie Gibas tells us the effect this has had on patients and businesses in Upstate.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- If you've ever been admitted to the hospital, you usually want to get home as quickly as possible. But now, a delay in the delivery of your medical equipment could keep you there longer.
"We had a situation where a patient required a bed to be discharged, a Medicare patient. The contractor who won the competitive bid contract could not provide that bed for two days. Now, a patient cannot sit in a hospital for two days waiting for a bed," said Frank Smith Jr., the President and CEO of Franciscan Companies.
Competitive bidding started a few years ago in 10 select markets. It's now been expanded to about 100. Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Albany are just a few of the cities where it's in place. That means Medicare patients have to buy from the companies that won the bid.
"Access isn't guaranteed. Preventing re-admissions isn't guaranteed. Quality has no consideration at all with competitive bidding. It's just pricing. Unfortunately, patients that we've been taking care of for years and years and years feel like they've been abandoned," said Smith.
Tim Scanlon, the Franciscan Management Services Operations VP, said, "You have a very difficult time getting a hold of them. And then when you ask them to deliver a bed in Syracuse, New York, you normally get a sarcastic remark like, 'Where is Syracuse, New York. I didn't know I had a contract there.'"
Experts say in addition to delayed medical equipment and complicating patient care, competitive bidding is hurting local business. Franciscan Companies has lost about 25 percent of their business. CNY Medical Products has lost 15 percent.
"The local providers are being shut out. Sixty percent of the providers that were awarded contracts in Syracuse, New York have never provided services in Syracuse, New York," said Scanlon.
John Komuda, the CNY Medical Products President and owner, said, "We heard of stories of many companies that did go out of business because they did not get contracts. We also heard stories of companies did win contracts in the first round bidding who also went out of business because the rates were so low, they couldn't afford to stay in business."
Even though the contracts run for three years, there is legislation in the works that could repeal the program, but many people aren't optimistic that will happen.
One answer to avoid getting caught up in the competitive bidding process is enroll in Medicare Advantage. It is more costly, but could help simplify your medical care and make sure local businesses are here to stay.
Competitive bidding only applies to defined bid markets. So many people in Cayuga and Cortland counties still have a choice of where to get their medical equipment.
Local medical equipment suppliers are asking people to contact their federal representatives to pressure them to repeal the program.
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