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Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Presently under Medicare, pharmacies supply Medicare beneficiaries with durable medical equipment, or DME, such as canes, crutches and diabetes testing strips. Pharmacists not only provide access to these items but also provide critical services, such as counseling on patient compliance and adherence, which often results in improved health outcomes.
In spite of the important and positive role that many pharmacists play in the Medicare DME program, in the past there has been a lot of fraud and abuse that has occurred in the world of DME supply. Accordingly, Congress stepped in and imposed new requirements on DME suppliers that would help rout out fraud, waste and abuse. One of the requirements is to require suppliers of durable medical equipment to obtain quality accreditation by October 1, 2009, or this Thursday, tomorrow.
Requiring DME suppliers to be accredited would help ensure that the integrity of the Medicare program is protected and makes sure that beneficiaries have access to quality services and supplies. Unfortunately, as pharmacists have tried to comply with this new requirement, those charged with providing accreditation have been unable to keep up with the demand.
Accordingly, a backlog of applications now exists, and there is little hope of having them completed by this week's deadline. If we do nothing, Mr. Speaker, countless pharmacies across the country will be left in limbo, possibly causing problems for beneficiaries seeking to access the DME supplies that they need. Congress should do everything it can to avoid this kind of disruption. The health reform bill provides some relief in this area, but its details are still being worked out.
That's why I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this commonsense measure which will temporarily delay the accreditation requirement from taking effect. Congress can fine-tune the health care reform legislation to address any remaining problems after January 1, which is the new deadline.
I want to thank my colleague on the Energy and Commerce Committee, Mr. Space of Ohio, for spearheading this effort, as well as Representatives Jo Ann Emerson, Marion Berry and Jerry Moran.
I reserve the balance of my time.
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