A bipartisan briefing was held for House of Representatives staff on March 1, in order to hear the concerns of durable medical equipment (DME) suppliers with regard to the new Medicare DME competitive bidding program.

The program – which began on January 1, 2011 for nine areas of the country and for nine product categories – has caused beneficiary access problems in addition to problems for suppliers, according to the industry. It is scheduled to begin later in 2011 for 91 other regions.

The briefing was organized by Representatives Glenn Thompson (R-PA) and Jason Altmire (D-PA), who both represent areas that are currently impacted by the program. Speakers included the President of the American Association for Homecare, who cited complaints from patients who had difficulties in obtaining equipment and stated that the competitive bidding program should be halted immediately. Additionally, local DME suppliers made clear their concerns that the program is threatening the quality of care for Medicare beneficiaries and could cause smaller DME suppliers to be forced from the market.

The speakers urged Congress to consider legislation that would stop the program – similar to legislation that delayed the DME program in 2008 and required the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to make changes. To that end, the briefing’s organizers are working to produce legislative language that will achieve this goal while also including necessary offsets to make up for the savings that the program is supposed produce for Medicare.