The membership of SEIU 75 NW is strongly opposed to the National Competitive Bidding program as prescribed by Congress and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

As a founding member of the Big Sky Healthcare Alliance, along with the membership of the SEIU Healthcare 775NW, we are concerned that this so-called “Competitive Bidding” program is causing significant disruption to homecare services that are vital to the people and families of Montana who rely on homecare and the homecare workers we represent.

With a significantly increasing mature population in Montana, homecare beneficiaries are able to stay at home and receive their health care services alongside their family members and in the communities in which they choose to live. While nursing homes and hospital services have their place, there are significant savings to Medicare, Medicaid and taxpayers, with effective homecare services being relied upon in our communities in Montana. This includes the ability of people who live in rural communities to stay in those communities, relying on trained homecare workers and medical technology that allows them to do so.

So-called “National Competitive Bidding” in Medicare and Medicaid, as currently being implemented, is a great threat to Montanans, our families and our communities. Already, more than two-thirds of the homecare workers in Montana are living near or below the poverty line. As this National Competitive Bidding law is being implemented, we are watching hundreds of small home health care providers and durable medical equipment providers go out of business around the country, including six major providers here in Montana. How will homecare workers be able to do their jobs effectively without efficient access to the technology they need to serve their homecare patients?

As a member of the Big Sky Homecare Alliance, we have learned about low-ball bidders driving down the cost of medical equipment. Then, they just walk away from their bids, uncaring of the negative consequences of their profit-motive on homecare beneficiaries and the people who serve them as homecare workers.

We are also concerned about “National Competitive Bidding” driving down the quality of the medical technologies and equipment available. As home care workers, we rely on well-made products to keep our clients happy and healthy in their homes. We don’t want to be forced into using cheap foreign-manufactured products that do not meet high quality standards of manufacturers of companies, some of which are based right here in Montana.

We believe people’s lives are at stake and access issues are arising now. With fewer providers, fewer home-bound clients can receive timely delivery of needed supplies, whether it is diabetic testing or an oxygen generator. As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, U.S. Senator Max Baucus and his staff have the power to stop round two bidding immediately until it can be fixed. Montanans are fortunate to have Baucus in such an important position, where he can take a stand for Montanans first and foremost.

Jacquie Helt is Montana State Director for SEIU Healthcare 775NW, a member of the Big Sky Homecare Alliance.

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