The Small Business Subcommittee on Healthcare and Technology, under the chairmanship of Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC), today held a hearing on the Medicare competitive bidding program for durable medical equipment, and its impact on small suppliers.
For years, Medicare's benefit for durable medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics and supplies (DMEPOS) has been plagued by a fee schedule with high error rates and above-market costs for the Medicare program, beneficiaries and taxpayers. In response, in 2003, Congress established a competitive bidding program designed to provide greater value while ensuring beneficiary access to supplies and satisfaction with them. Although CMS recently reported that 51% of winning DMEPOS suppliers were small businesses, some small suppliers believe the program favors large companies and they are at a disadvantage. Today's hearing examined the bidding processes and whether it favors large companies over small suppliers.
"Today's hearing provided a valuable opportunity to discuss the Medicare durable medical equipment competitive bidding program and its impact on patients and small business suppliers," said Chairwoman Ellmers. "As the program begins to expand beyond 9 to 100 Metropolitan Statistical Areas in the next few years, it is important that Congress oversees its development to ensure that prices are competitive, small suppliers have the opportunity to compete fairly, and taxpayer money is used wisely. The efficient operation of this program is vitally important because numerous patients rely on medical equipment and many of the suppliers are small businesses that are important to our economic recovery. This hearing began the process -- but going forward we must seek to ensure that this program protects patient access to the vital products and care they need. While I strongly believe in the competitive forces of the private market, the process by which the competition is conducted must be fair -- and truly competitive."