MEDICARE: Sen. Gramm Pushes For Competitive Bidding
Contending that Medicare "is throwing away millions of dollars on medical equipment," Sen. Phil Gramm (R-TX) wants to bring "competitive bidding" to the government health care program, the AP/Austin American-Statesman reports. Speaking Saturday in Austin, TX, Gramm said, "We need to be committed to seeing that every penny that we spend on Medicare gets the maximum return. Clearly in durable medical equipment and many other areas that is simply not true." Gramm supported his claims by citing and comparing what the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Health Care Financing Administration pay for the same medical equipment. "While the VA spends $50 on a walker, Medicare pays $80. ... For a hospital bed, the VA spends an average of $945, while Medicare doles out $1,922," Gramm said. Kenneth Adams, vice president for government relations for the National Association for Medical Equipment Services, "said the VA prices that Gramm quoted did not include the cost of servicing the equipment, which Medicare requires." While Gramm "conceded" that competitive bidding will not solve all of Medicare's problems, he sees it as a starting point. "[B]efore we start doing other things, let's at least be getting the best prices we can." The AP/American-Statesman reports that as part of last year's balanced budget agreement, HCFA will begin testing competitive bidding in certain markets across the country. While Gramm said that such testing was unnecessary, "he is pushing for Texas to be one of the test sites" (Merle, 4/5).
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