Medicare rules destroy quality of life
In their effort to save money, to decrease federal expenditures for medical care, Medicare has changed the rules for payment to suppliers of durable medical equipment, or DME. Under the new regulations, the merchants who rent or sell such things as wheelchairs, hospital beds and supplemental oxygen devices must submit bids for their prices, with contracts awarded to the lowest bidders.
The competitive billing system for DME is in the process of seriously harming the estimated 30 million-plus Americans with lung disease, the disorder with which I am most involved. The billing system was ostensibly created in order to save millions of dollars in the supplying of home-use medical equipment, but is a false economy.
Oxygen patients become more dependent on higher flow rates and more dependable supplies as their disease progresses. It becomes obvious that, given the inability to obtain adequate oxygen and supplies, the patient will become more homebound, more invisible.
With the resultant lack of activity and social interaction, many patients will grow weaker, more susceptible to exacerbations. This will likely result in the necessity for much more expensive medical treatment in an emergency room or inpatient hospital setting. Thus, any money saved through the DME bidding program will be vastly overshadowed by the increased costs of the more dramatic procedures.
The built-in restrictions in proper equipment dictated by the present Medicare bidding system are a disaster on its way to happening. In the next couple of decades, our population will grow older, lung patients will continue to grow more dependent, and, given the financial situation thrust upon the DME suppliers by the present bidding system, there will surely be fewer of them available to supply the patients with cheaper equipment that does not really meet their needs.
Jim Nelson is a former Glenwood Springs resident who works with regional and national cardiovascular and lung organizations.
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