Medicare patients could be looking for new home health care providers

      By Ava

      CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) It's business as usual at Atlantic Respiratory in West Ashley where machines are being repaired, oxygen tanks are stacked and customer phones calls are being answered.

      "We've had patients from other companies calling us. We've been inundated with calls from patients who are concerned that they're not going to be able to stay with their current provider," said T.J. Thompson, the president of Atlantic Respiratory Services.{}

      She said on July 1, big changes could be coming to her company and other medical suppliers across the county.

      Thompson said a competitive bidding bill in Washington, D.C., would require all Medicare beneficiaries to only visit with Medicare-contracted suppliers, and that could mean an end to home visits.

      "For the most part, the companies who accept the bid and are signing the contract are over 100 miles away," said Thompson.

      And according to her, that means only medical supplies would be delivered from those out of town companies with contracts.

      "We're not simply a company that hands a patient a piece of equipment and then walks away. What we provide to that patient is service: we provide education, we work with that patient to make sure they are comfortable and a lot of times our patients are seniors who are alone," said Thompson.{}

      Thompson said if the bill is passed, Atlantic is ready to take on new customers who may have to change providers, but their hope is Washington will delay they bill and consider a different option.

      Thompson said the goal of the bill is ultimately to save Medicare money.

      It could save customers money in the short term. But she warns it could cost more in the long term if patients don't have the one-on-one interaction when it comes to learning how to use medical equipment.