Oxygen-Supplying Businessman Forced to Sell Property

A Chesterfield, Virginia County businessman is selling his 400-acre farm in a last-ditch effort to keep his medical supply company from going under.

On September 9 Wayne Campbell’s property, which includes six parcels of land, equestrian facilities and the home where the owner of Richmond Respiratory and Medical Supply currently resides, will go on the auction block. Campbell has already laid off three employees, slashed salaries of remaining workers and gone six months without taking a paycheck.

Campbell told the Chesterfield Observer he can’t afford to keep the farm.

How did this happen?

Campbell’s company was awarded a federal contract by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to service Medicare patients requiring oxygen treatments in the Richmond “competitive bidding area.”

Beginning in July, 2013 Medicare reimbursements for Campbell’s new three-year contract were cut by 41 percent. The business owner says 98 percent of his revenue comes from the government program.

It’s simple math -- a fifth grader could figure it out… We’re spending more money for our patients than we’re getting paid by Medicare.

According to People for Quality Care, an advocacy group for seniors and the disabled,  a competitive bidding pilot program was implemented in 2008 in nine markets, including Miami, Dallas, Cleveland and Charlotte, N.C The program produced “massive shortages of durable medical supplies and was promptly scrapped, only to be resurrected three years later by the Obama administration.”

80-year-old Chesterfield County resident Mildred Atkins is a longtime customer of Campbell’s company. She is blind and requires around-the-clock oxygen treatment for blood clots in her lungs. Atkins fears changes to the Medicare program will mean her local provider will no longer be around to deliver the supply of oxygen needed to keep her alive.

I feel like [the government] has really slapped me in the face…What are we supposed to do, just do without and die?

Alerted by their constituents in 2013, 227 members of the House of Representative signed a letter to CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner asking for a delay in implementation of Round Two in the competitive bidding program.

Congressman Randy Forbes, whose district includes part of Chesterfield County, stated the program would force small businesses to lay off employees and eventually close their doors -- or in Campbell’s case, sell his home to stay afloat.

In her response to the representatives, Tavenner stated that Medicare disbursements will save taxpayers $25.8 billion over ten years and $17.2 billion for beneficiaries through reduced coinsurance and premiums. She repeatedly suggests quantity and quality of services will not be affected despite evidence to the contrary.

In a 26-page 2012 study, Bloomberg Government vehemently disagreed with Tavenner.

The “Competitive Bidding” program is flawed, lacks long-term sustainability, artificially limits the number of providers available to seniors and ultimately will fail.

Bloomberg also maintains that Round One of the program saw an 85% reduction in providers, going from 2,300 to 356.

Instead of providing patient-centered care, the program actually strips Medicare beneficiaries from their choice of healthcare and will most likely leave many like Mildred without timely access to much needed life-saving goods and services.

Ms. Tavenner,, who incidentally began her rise to the top at a Chesterfield County hospital near Campbell’s business, seems more than willing to see small suppliers close up shop and seniors scrambling for care. 

Drastically reducing Medicare payments to legitimate businesses who routinely deliver medical supplies like oxygen to chronically ill patients is not only  a death-knell for numerous companies but for people like Mildred Atkins as well.

Meanwhile, Campbell’s soon-to-be auctioned farm is a real-life casualty of a CMS program that Bloomberg says may have touted false savings the first year and which encourages “unrealistic, low-ball bids.”

It’s no surprise that Obama’s  healthcare law which promised to rein in medical care costs, is doing so by limiting care to the most needy and shutting down small companies. 

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