If you, a friend, or loved one has Original Medicare and needs certain medical equipment and supplies, you should know that Medicare is scheduled to expand its successful competitive bidding program to more areas of the country. This program will help you save money and ensure that you have access to quality medical equipment and supplies from suppliers you can trust. It will also help limit fraud and abuse in the Medicare Program.

Scheduled to start on July 1, if you have Original Medicare, live in the Phoenix, Mesa, Glendale, or Tucson areas, and need equipment or supplies included under the program (listed below), you will likely need to use Medicare contract suppliers for Medicare to help pay for the item.

The equipment and supplies included in the program are: 

1. Oxygen, oxygen equipment, and supplies.

2. Standard (power and manual) wheelchairs, scooters, and related accessories.

3. Enteral nutrients, equipment, and supplies.

4. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) devices, respiratory assist devices (RADs) and related supplies and accessories.

5. Hospital beds and related accessories.

6. Walkers and related accessories.

7. Negative Pressure Wound Therapy pumps and related supplies and accessories.

8. Support surfaces (Group 2 mattresses and overlays).

If you’re already renting certain medical equipment or receiving oxygen or oxygen equipment when the program starts, you may be able to stay with your current supplier. Suppliers that aren’t Medicare contract suppliers can choose to become “grandfathered” suppliers and continue to rent your equipment to you. 

Here are some simple steps you should take if you use any of the equipment listed above:

1. Visit Medicare.gov/supplier to determine if you live in (or will travel to) a ZIP code where the program is expanding or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048. If you live in or travel to a competitive bidding area and need equipment or supplies included in the program, you will likely need to use a contract supplier to make sure Medicare will help pay for your item.

2. View the list of suppliers to see if your current supplier is a contract supplier. If so, you don’t need to do anything else.

3. If you rent certain medical equipment or are receiving oxygen or oxygen equipment when the program starts, check with your supplier to find out if they plan to become a grandfathered supplier. If your supplier chooses to become a grandfathered supplier, they will let you know in writing 30 business days before the program begins. You may choose to keep using them or switch to a contract supplier. If they choose not to become a grandfathered supplier, see to Step 4 below.

4. Consult the list of contract suppliers for your area and contact them as soon as possible to ensure continued access to your medical items and Medicare payment for the items. 

Also scheduled to begin in July 2013, Medicare will implement a national mail-order program for diabetic testing supplies. When it starts, you’ll need to use a Medicare national mail-order contract supplier for Medicare to pay for your diabetic testing supplies that are delivered to your home. 

If you have questions or want more information, Medicare has resources to help you understand the new program, including Medicare.gov and 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048. You can also call your local State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) for free health insurance counseling and personalized help. If you’re in a Medicare Advantage Plan (like an HMO or PPO), your plan will notify you if your supplier is changing. Contact your plan for more information. 

• Jack Cheevers is public information officer, Region IX, for the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. This information is provided by the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

(2) comments

jim Schafhauser
jim Schafhauser

What you really need to know about this program is that you no longer have the right to choose who your healthcare provider is.

What you really need to know is that your longtime service provider may no longer be able to provide you with the service and products you need.

What you really need to know is that this program is all about price and service be damned.

What you really need to know is that this program will decimate the home medical equipment and service industry. Destroying hundreds of companies, thousands of jobs and disrupting the lives of hundreds of thousands Medicare beneficiaries.

What you need to know is the number to the Competitive Bidding Complaint Hotline - 1-800-404-8702.

What you need to know is that 227 Congressman signed a letter asking CMS to delay this flawed program so it could be fixed. And that CMS simply ignored them.

What you need to know is that 244 nationally recognized economist have stated since the beginning that this program will fail due to improper and unsustainable bid rates.

jim Schafhauser
jim Schafhauser

How about the real story:

POLITICO website: An opinion piece appearing on the website by Rep. Glenn Thompson and Rep. Bruce Braley.

The Hill: Doctor Gary Puckrein addresses his concerns about the competitive bidding program, "The true face of competitive bidding”.

The Scranton Times-Tribune "Medicare program leaves area beneficiaries with few local care options”

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