New rules on durable medical goods here

It is Phase 2 of a program to cut Medicare costs.

Posted: August 20, 2011

Philadelphia-area users and suppliers of wheelchairs or other durable medical goods paid for by Medicare will have new rules in coming months as the federal government agency begins the second phase of a program to cut costs to taxpayers.

Suppliers will have to apply to Medicare to show they can serve customers' needs and submit price bids for a particular service. Medicare will then reimburse providers using the median price of all bids in that region. Once contracts are awarded, local Medicare inspectors will help monitor compliance.

The Philadelphia area, including South Jersey and Wilmington, is one of 91 locales in the second phase of the program, dictated by a series of laws first signed in 2003 under President George W. Bush and extended in President Obama's Affordable Care Act of 2010.

Medicare is the taxpayer-funded federal program that pays medical bills for many people age 65 or older. The old payment system worked well for many suppliers, who led opposition to the original law and this version. The first phase had nine cities and produced a six-month savings of $130 million, Medicare officials said, adding they project savings of $28 billion over 10 years.

"We detected no change in access and no change in quality of care" in the first round, Medicare deputy administrator Jon Blum said in a conference call with reporters.

The durable medical devices include manual and electric wheelchairs, oxygen tanks, and hospital beds. There will also be a nationwide program for price bids on diabetic blood-testing supplies. Patients won't have to do anything until early 2012 but can call 1-800-633-4227 (1-800-MEDICARE) with questions. Medicare will begin an awareness and education program for suppliers on how to apply for the program.


Contact staff writer David Sell

at 215-854-4506 or dsell@phillynews.com.

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