Study: Rural Medicare Beneficiaries Will Lose HME Access

Report examines prospects for rural patients in the wake of national bidding expansion.

Medicare beneficiaries, individuals with disabilities and veterans in rural states will have to drive farther to obtain prescribed home medical equipment starting Jan. 1, according to a new study.

Rural residents in Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin will have to travel further to reach an HME supplier, if bid expansion is implemented at the start of the New Year, according to the report, which was completed by the GeoTree Center at the University of Northern Iowa, in Cedar Falls, and was commissioned by VGM Group Inc.

The full report, which provides detailed, state-by-state analysis, is available at bit.ly/1HXtSq6.

The study was the continuation of an earlier study in August that showed similar outcomes for five other rural states. This table, derived from both studies, summarizes the details of HME coverage following the reimbursement cuts:

The release of the study comes just as members of the U.S. Senate and House weigh legislation that would reform CMS’s nationwide expansion of competitive bidding, and grant relief to hundreds of providers in rural areas. Those providers face reimbursement cuts of up to 45 percent on Jan. 1, when expansion takes place.

“HME suppliers in rural areas contend with different business challenges such as the cost of delivery and smaller patient volume that are not accounted for in this across the board cut,” said John Gallagher, vice president-government relations for VGM. “Businesses will be put in dire situations, forcing coverage reduction or even closures. Naturally, when there are fewer providers, patient access suffers, hospital discharges are delayed, which costs the government more money.”

In the past six years, there has been a 17 percent reduction of suppliers throughout the U.S., a direct result of the competitive bidding program, VGM reported.

Medicare beneficiaries and their HME suppliers are holding out that S. 2312, the DME Access and Stabilization Act of 2015 and H.R. 4185, the Protecting Access through Competitive Pricing Transition Act of 2015 will be included in the 2015 Omnibus Spending packages.  

“It’s urgent that people in rural states speak out to their elected officials to stop the expansion of the Medicare competitive bidding program that will devastate rural health care,” Gallagher said.



About the Author

David Kopf is the Publisher and Executive Editor of HME Business and DME Pharmacy magazines. Follow him on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/dkopf/ and on Twitter at @postacutenews.

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