|Mike Stuart adresses concerns with Congressman Long|
The owner of Lakeland Pharmacy, Mike Stuart, says he just wants to be on a level playing field with the bigger pharmaceutical franchises that affect the bottom line of his businesses.
Stuart was concerned enough about H. R. (House Resolution) 1041, a bill that would amend the "Fairness in Medicare Bidding Act," that he invited Congressman Billy Long and the media to his store in Branson West last week.
Stuart says the money he receives for durable medical equipment like oxygen, prosthetics, orthotics and supplies has been drastically cut over the last fifteen years. In 1997, President Bill Clinton passed the "Balanced Budget Act" that decreased oxygen reimbursement by 30% and eliminated fees providers could charge for making house calls, etc. In 2005, President George W. Bush signed the "Medicare Modernization Act" that chopped another 9% for oxygen reimbursement and the next year Mr. Bush signed the "Deficit Reduction Act" that said providers that entered into a five year contract with the federal agency would only be paid for three years because that was the life expectancy of a patient with COPD.
For instance, say your mother receives her oxygen and supplies for the life saving air from Lakeland, if she lived 1 day longer than the expected three years projected by the agency, Lakeland would have to absorb the cost for the remainder of the five years, or until her death. After the Leap Day tornado that ripped through Stone County in February, Lakeland had to replace oxygen used by some patients. The business had to abosorb those costs and was not reimbursed by Medicare because of the way the contract is currently written, according to Stuart.
Last year HR 1041 was introduced by Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA) and referred to the House subcommittee on health on March 21, 2011. The bill currently has 172 co-sponsors, including Missouri lawmakers, Todd Akin, Jo Ann Emerson, Sam Graves and Blaine Luetkemeyer. Stuart wants Congressman Long to sign this bill that would repeal the "Fairness in Medicare Bidding Act."
Stuart said problems with competitive bidding in the current Medicare Modernization Act is "extremely flawed." Patients can't pick their own providers, and bids by the larger conglomerates that are able to undercut him provide poor customer service.
“In the larger markets like Kansas City, 40% of those that are part of the competitive bidding market are losing money and 39% of businesses that did not win the competitive bid will probably go out of business." Stuart says there is no transparency in competitive bidding and some companies are putting "suicide bids" out that reduce Medicare reimbursement by 29%.
The business owner asked Long to co-sponsor a bill with Dr. Tom Price (R-GA) that would replace the competitive bidding program that is in place now with a "Market Pricing Program" to ensure a financially sustainable program when Congress returns to Washington this week.
“It’s a dog fight for an independent business to compete in this marketplace,” Stuart said.
Long is scheduled to meet with constituents at a "listening post" from 2 - 4 p.m. at the village hall at the Village of Indian Point on September 17th.