Congress is bowing to pressure (read: financial contributions) from medical equipment makers that stand to lose money if Medicare expands its competitive bidding program.
The NY Times reports today that the House approved legislation Tuesday that would delay the launch of the competitive bidding program for 18 months — all to appease a few companies that are scared of staying viable in, gasp, a competitive market.
The results of the pilot bidding program show this is good policy that will save Medicare and individuals money. The Times reports:
"When Medicare awarded competitively bid contracts to some 325
companies to serve the 10 metropolitan areas, it reduced equipment
prices by 26 percent on what it would have paid for the same equipment
under the current fee schedule. That means that if the contracts were
allowed to proceed, beneficiaries would save 26 percent on their
co-payments. Medicare would save $125 million the first year and as
much as $1 billion a year if the program went nationwide."
Yet, good policy may lose this battle.
As NY Times columnist David Leonhardt and an accompanying editorial aptly point out, this small battle is ominously prophetic of the impending battles over health care reform.
"By standing in the way of this competition, Congress is really standing up for higher health care costs," Leonhardt wrote.
It will be interesting to see which Congressmen and women vote against competitive bidding now and then assail the rising costs of health care from the podium this fall.
For the cynical out there, this is a reminder of what you already know.
As industry veteran Brian Klepper told me yesterday, "Only innocents and little children think health care reform is going to happen through policy. It’s not going to happen because half of all the money is unnecessary and because Congress is on the take."