Who’s right for DME: McCain or Obama?

As the presidential election comes to a close, the industry weighs in on who’s better for the industry

In a country that’s at war, facing financial bail outs and rising gas prices, most would agree that it’s time for a change in leadership. As the 2008 election draws near, we ponder the question: which presidential candidate’s administration would be most beneficial to the durable medical equipment industry?

The responses were as varied as John McCain and Barack Obama themselves. To most, that question of who would work the hardest for home medical equipment beneficiaries is a fact that remains to be seen.

“Well it’s an interesting question, and I’m not sure that anybody knows the answer because neither of their campaigns have been very specific about the DME industry,” says Michael Reinemer, vice president of communications and policy with the American Association for Homecare. “Both of the candidates have made references to the importance of getting care in the home. But as far as I know neither of them have gotten into issues like competitive bidding, oxygen reimbursements or any of the details that would give us a real sense of how they would make decisions.”

Economist Kerry Anne McGeary, Ph.D. of Drexel University’s Department of Economic and International Business, says that both have plans for health care reform even though those plans are very different. McCain’s plan, she says, is much more market based while Obama’s plan is much more government involved.

“He wants to expand government programs so in that regard if you’re expanding public programs you’re going to have more beneficiaries and costs are going to go up,” she says. “(Obama’s) probably going to have to put a stronger emphasis on keeping reimbursement rates down.”
Ted L. Jones, Jr., president and owner of The Intelligent Business Network Inc., a health care consulting firm, believes that putting McCain in office is just like having Bush there.

“McCain has got the exact same administration working his campaign as Bush so I can’t foresee that somehow he’s going to say ‘you know what those little tiny DMEs out there, they’re really good for America.”’

Obama’s administration, he believes, will be more conscious of American citizens who are at the retirement age and need health care and also of small businesses and the impact they have on the community.
“They’re going to make sure those funds are there, and I don’t think they’re going to let something like competitive bidding come in,” he says. “Ted Kennedy had to get out of the hospital to help vote to stop competitive bidding, and I think that the Democratic Party this go round would make sure that there is a surplus, like we had with Clinton, to work with as opposed to a deficit.”

Stephen Foreman, Ph.D. of Robert Morris University’s Department of Finance and Economics, who is also an economist, says that since a republican CMS has developed the franchise bidding scheme, a McCain administration might be unlikely to favor any change in the funding landscape.
“By the same token, past Democratic administrations have not been particularly prone to allocate resources through competition,” he says. “The industry should expect continued pressure from the executive branch to eliminate competition in the DME market. As a result, it might well focus its efforts on Congress unless it can get an ironclad guarantee from one of the candidates to scrap the franchise bidding scheme.”

This article originally appeared in the November 2008 issue of HME Business.

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