Sunday, June 30, 2002

Competitive bidding: All's not lost

Q. What will be the impact of the House passing a Medicare prescription drug bill that requires a national competitive bidding program?

A. Unfortunately, it is a virtual certainty that the House of Representatives will pass a bill with a national competitive bidding program in July. This is most unfortunate, but it is not the final word on this issue. The Senate has yet to consider Medicare legislation, and though there are some strong proponents of national competitive bidding in the Senate (mainly Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.)), there are also some strong opponents such as Senator Max Cleland (D-Ga.). It is absolutely imperative that homecare providers contact every member of the Senate and educate him or her on this issue. We must make clear that not only is this program an administrative nightmare, and extremely detrimental to small businesses, but it will also leave the care of consumers to the lowest bidder, which is just plain bad policy.

Senators will be in their states during the July 4th and August recesses. Suppliers should request meetings and take a colleague or two along if at all possible. If it is impossible to get meetings, they should ask for a schedule of town hall meetings, and they should attend and raise these issues. Time is very short, and we must do our work to keep competitive bidding out of the Senate bill.

Tom Connaughton is CEO of AAHomecare. Reach him at (703) 836-6730.