KCUR News
10:01 am
Sun June 29, 2008

Medicare Launches Program Changes in Kansas City

Kansas City, MO –
About a quarter million Medicare beneficiaries in the Kansas City area will no longer be able to purchase certain durable medical equipment, like walkers, wheel chairs, and oxygen machines from just anywhere. Instead, they'll have to get equipment from specific suppliers contracted through Medicare.

The changes are part of a new competitive bidding program, and Kansas City is one of the first 10 places nationwide that's implementing it this week. Regional Medicare Spokesperson, Nancy Schmidt, says beneficiaries will save about 20% on their equipment co-pays.

Schmidt: We know and have known for a very long time that we pay too much, so Congress gave us the authority to use competitive bidding to establish more appropriate prices.

Schmidt also says the program limits fraud and abuse because suppliers had to meet certain financial and quality standards in order to receive contracts. Medicare beneficiaries can still rent equipment from a non-contracted supplier, as long as that supplier agrees to accept the new Medicare payment rates. Several supplier groups across the country have filed lawsuits, saying the bidding process unfairly excluded some qualified bidders, and that the program puts beneficiaries at risk for disrupted and limited services.

Funding for health care coverage on KCUR has been provided by the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City.

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