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Meek trying to block competitive Medicare bidding

Health News Florida: Medicare patients and taxpayers will save more than one-third on home-health equipment costs in South and Central Florida next year because of a new competitive-bidding program, federal officials announced Thursday. But the industry continues trying to kill it, with the help of a Florida congressman. The projected savings begin Jan. 1, after years of debate about whether medical-equipment companies should be forced to compete for Medicare business and a series of reports on waste in the program. While the bidding system will take effect next year in only nine metropolitan areas, it will gradually expand across the country and save an estimated $17 billion over 10 years, top Medicare official Jonathan Blum said during a conference call with reporters. "This will save taxpayer dollars that fund the Medicare program,'' said Blum, deputy administrator of the agency, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services. But it's not a done deal. Backed by the industry, U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek is spearheading an effort in Congress to try to repeal the bidding system before it can take effect. The Miami Democrat, who is running for the Democratic nomination for U.S. senator, has gained widespread support in the House, but so far the effort has been stymied in the Senate. The bidding system will affect the costs of many common types of medical supplies and equipment that seniors need to get care in their homes, including oxygen equipment, diabetic supplies and wheelchairs.