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Competitive bidding hurts patients

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Albany/HV: Competitive bidding hurts patients
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If you use a walker, wheelchair or other select medical equipment, you may have to wait longer for your next order. As YNN's Katie Gibas reports, the federal government has been phasing in a competitive bidding program.



"We had a situation where a patient required a bed to be discharged, a Medicare patient. The contractor who won the competitive bid contract could not provide that bed for two days. Now, a patient cannot sit in a hospital for two days waiting for a bed," said Frank Smith Jr., the President and CEO of Franciscan Companies.

Competitive bidding started a few years ago in ten select markets. It's now been expanded to about 100. Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Albany are just a few of the cities where it is in place. That means Medicare patients have to buy from the companies that won the bid.

"Access isn't guaranteed. Preventing re-admissions isn't guaranteed. Quality has no consideration at all with competitive bidding. It's just pricing. Unfortunately, patients that we've been taking care of for years and years and years feel like they've been abandoned," said Smith.

Tim Scanlon, the Franciscan Management Services Operations Vice President added, "You have a very difficult time getting a hold of them. And then when you ask them to deliver a bed in Syracuse, New York, you normally get a sarcastic remark like, 'Where is Syracuse, New York. I didn't know I had a contract there.'"

Even though the contracts run for three years, there is legislation in the works that could repeal the program, but many people aren't optimistic that will happen.

Competitive bidding only applies to defined bid markets. So people in more rural areas, outside those metro bid areas could still be able to get their equipment from their preferred supplier.

One answer to avoid getting caught up in the competitive bidding process is enroll in Medicare Advantage. It is more costly, but could help simplify your medical care.

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