Competitive bidding hurt Medicare beneficiaries with diabetes, group says

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Medicare's Competitive Bidding Program for diabetes supplies has led to an increase in mortality, hospitalization rates and inpatient costs among diabetes patients, according to a new analysis from the National Minority Quality Forum. Their analysis runs contrary to what the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has said, which is that no beneficiaries have been harmed from competitive bidding.

The NMQF's analysis, which will be published in the April issue of Diabetes Care, argues that the program disrupts Medicare beneficiaries' ability to get diabetes testing equipment, including self-monitoring blood glucose supplies. That disruption has led to higher costs for inpatient hospital care, as well as an increase in the hospitalization and mortality rates of diabetic Medicare beneficiaries, the authors wrote.

CMS has said clearly that it believes no beneficiaries have seen a change in health outcomes connected to competitive bidding. But forum President and CEO Gary A. Puckrin called for the program's halt.

“Based on our findings and employing the safety monitoring protocols commonly used to protect human subjects, we believe policymakers should immediately suspend the program until CMS can demonstrate its ability to effectively monitor the effects of the program, correct the structural flaws causing this problem and ensure that the lives of America's greatest generation are no longer at risk,” he said.

The NMQF's recent analysis builds on a report released in 2012 by the Government Accountability Office that said the safety monitoring methods used as part of the competitive bidding program did not directly show whether beneficiaries received the equipment they needed on time, or whether their health outcomes were affected by issues accessing the equipment.