Veto Override Delays Bidding Program

July 21, 2008

Congress wasted no time last week in overturning a presidential veto and delaying a Medicare competitive bidding program for durable medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics and supplies (DMEPOS).

Just hours after President Bush appeared on the House floor July 15 to explain his veto of H.R. 6331, the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008, both chambers voted to override it — the House by 383–41 and the Senate by 70–26.

The act covers a range of Medicare issues, including the DMEPOS competitive bidding program, which went into effect July 1. HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said it was estimated that the competition of the bidding program would save Medicare $1 billion per year.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) already had signed contracts with 325 suppliers to provide specified medical equipment and supplies to Medicare beneficiaries in 10 communities, according to a CMS press release. The bidding program was set to expand to an additional 70 communities next year.

Since the act was passed after the program became effective, all contracts awarded will be terminated, and DMEPOS payment rates in effect prior to July 1 will be reinstated retroactively, according to CMS. The act also pushes the expansion of the bidding program to 2011.

While the president’s main objections to the legislation had to do with its potentially negative impact on Medicare prescription programs, he expressed concern with stopping the DMEPOS bidding program after bids had been awarded.

In his message to the House, the president called the program an “important reform” that would produce significant savings for Medicare and its beneficiaries. Passage of H.R. 6331 “would leave the Federal Supplementary Medical Insurance Trust Fund vulnerable to litigation because of the awarded contracts,” he said. “Changing a policy in mid-stream is also confusing to beneficiaries who are receiving services from quality suppliers at lower prices.