Commentary: Congress must buck status quo on Medicare fees

The Medicare program pays nearly a third more for wheelchairs, oxygen equipment, scooters and other medical equipment than consumers do in the private market. That's an obvious area to find savings.

But two years ago Congress buckled under pressure from suppliers and halted an effort to open the process to competitive bidding. Members must show more resolve this time.

Kansas City is one of nine regions in which the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has begun putting contracts up for bid. Quotes coming in bode well for savings.

When new contracts take effect in January, the government expects to pay 28 percent less in this region for durable medical equipment. Overall savings in the nine cities should amount to 32 percent.

Not surprisingly, the new bidding process is riling current suppliers. Some are small businesses that have been sustained for years by Medicare's generous fee schedule.

Backed by groups such as the American Association for Homecare, suppliers are beseeching Congress to again support the costly status quo. For a Congress worried about deficits, caving in on Medicare fees would be outrageous.

To read the complete editorial, visit www.kansascity.com.