Regulators boast of savings under Affordable Care Act's competitive bidding program for durable medical equipment

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Federal regulators on Wednesday touted Medicare savings achieved through competitive bidding programs for durable medical equipment (DME), a program of concern to many long-term care operators. 

DME competitive bidding, authorized by the Affordable Care Act, saved $202 million in the first year in the nine metropolitan areas where it went into place, according to a new report from Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Under the program, providers seeking DME supplies can purchase them only from companies that submit the lowest bid to, and are approved by, CMS.

Additionally, CMS said it is getting ready to renew bidding for the nine first round areas of the durable medical equipment competitive bidding program and will include some new items. The report, for which CMS surveyed participants such as hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and emergency rooms, said it will directly save seniors and disabled individuals on Medicare a projected $17.1 billion due to lower co-insurance and premiums for Medicare over the next decade. Taxpayers, meanwhile, will save a projected $25.7 billion through the Medicare Supplementary Medical Insurance Trust Fund because of reduced prices, CMS said.

Long-term care advocates are watching the program closely, according to Cynthia Morton, executive vice president of the National Association for the Support of Long Term Care.

“In the report today CMS states they are strengthening this process to check that very low bids are sustainable by checking more of the bids,” Morton told McKnight's. “We feel this is very important, because those who submit those bids are not bound by them.”