Tom Scully on marketing to Medicare

Monday, September 30, 2002

In conversation with CMS Admnistrator Tom Scully about nationwide competitive bidding, he had this to say about marketing to Medicare beneficiaries.

HME: Do you question marketing techniques employed by some HME providers, such ads offering 'free' equipment just by calling an 800-number?

TS: Yes. If the government sets up stupid incentives, people will follow them. That is not illegal. As a taxpayer, do I think it's OK to try and sell every person in the world a motorized wheelchair or hospital bed? No. But if the government sets up those dumb incentives, people will do it. That is not illegal. It is my job as a policy maker to fix some of those things.

HME: What are dumb incentives?

TS: I don't' want to go into that. But if you look at the volume of some DME products and services, you could wonder if the volume matches demand.

HME: Couldn't that in part be do to consumers being more aware of their Medicare eligibility?

TS: If you tell them the government is going to pay the whole cost, they don't care. If I said you could have a car tomorrow, whether you needed it or not, you'd probably take it. HME