Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Medicare Law Worries Home-Care Industry; Measure Will Force Companies to Bid, but Beneficiaries Could See Lower Out-of-Pocket Costs

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Medicare Law Worries Home-Care Industry; Measure Will Force Companies to Bid, but Beneficiaries Could See Lower Out-of-Pocket Costs

Article excerpt

Byline: Jeremy Cox

After 18 years in business, little has changed in the way Hall-Moore Medical Supplies processes Medicare claims. The Jacksonville-based home medical equipment dealer simply bills Medicare, and the program writes a check - with few, if any, questions asked.

That's about to change in a way that owner Jerry Hall and leaders of the home-care industry say will shutter many companies and possibly impart delays in the delivery of urgently needed medical supplies.

"They're going to destroy patient care in the home-care sector," Hall said, "and it's going to dismantle our industry."

The oft-delayed measure will pit companies against one another in a competitive bidding auction that is scheduled at the start of next year to expand to scores of cities, including Jacksonville. The goal is to reduce the $9 billion that Medicare spends annually on the growing home-care market.

Beneficiaries of the 65-and-over program stand to save on out-of-pocket expenses, too, proponents say.

Medicare pays 80 percent of the cost of power chairs, oxygen machines and other home-care equipment. Patients either must pay the remaining 20 percent out of pocket or have supplemental insurance cover it.

Bidding lived up to its expectations in a tryout that started at the beginning of this year in nine major metros, including Miami and Orlando. Reimbursements plummeted by nearly a third, and consumer complaints have been "very few," said Renard Murray, Medicare's top official in the Southeast.

"I think it's very much an improvement for the 4 million Medicare beneficiaries in our nine competitive bidding areas," Murray said.

Opponents of the bidding program include the home-care industry's lobbying arm, the American Association for Homecare and several patient-advocacy groups, such as the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the American Association of People with Disabilities.

A repeal of the 2003 law has garnered 116 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives, including Northeast Florida envoys Corrine Brown, a Democrat, and Ander Crenshaw, a Republican. …

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