Tina K. Russell

August 29, 2008

When buying equipment for the disabled, don’t use price as a crutch

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Tina Russell @ 1:29 am

Letter – Medicare Bidding – Letter – NYTimes.com
In your Aug. 22 editorial “Medicare’s Claims,” you refer to the postponement by Congress of a new competitive bidding system for durable medical equipment. Such a system might sound great, but it does not serve or help people with disabilities. It can literally kill us.

I use a $20,000 power chair for mobility and a $15,000 vent to breathe. This equipment has allowed me to drive, teach, write books and plays, and enjoy a full life. Allow competitive bidding, and I’d be using inferior equipment and my quality of life would be compromised.

I really loathe this argument. “You get what you pay for” is kind of a myth; you don’t get anything with a Rolex, save for the status symbol of having paid hundreds of dollars for a wristwatch. Meanwhile, it’s kind of a no-brainer that you should choose the least-priced option that meets your prescribed standards of quality. If you’re not getting the right quality, the answer isn’t to pay more money, it’s to raise your standards.

And, you know, if you’re supposed to pick not the most expensive option, but not the cheapest, either… than what? Should we pick something somewhere in the middle? The second-cheapest option? Third-cheapest? Whatever arbitrary meaning we give to prices is waiting to be manipulated by manufacturers that will put their prices right where we want them, regardless of the quality of the product.

The best option, of course, is to remember that price has utterly no bearing on the quality of the product, and we should rate the product on its own merits instead. But, that’s just me. And since you’re reading this blog for free, and not paying me hundreds an hour as a marketing consultant, my opinions are clearly worthless. I should learn to charge more for the same service.

Oh, and buried in my ellipsis is this gem:

Moreover, surgical suppliers of such advanced and often custom equipment are already working on an extremely low profit margin. If the government starts awarding funds to the lowest bidder, it would reduce the ability of surgical suppliers to stay in business.

Yes, remember that the government is a charity organization for unprofitable businesses! Seriously, if those hardscabble mom-and-pop surgical supplies operations, surviving on sheer pluck and spunk, are just so much gol-darn better than the cheaper competition, that should be the reason to select them, not for being the next-most expensive. Remember: cost of manufacture is a baseline for the final price, and sometimes not even that. (Sony loses money each time you buy a PlayStation 3, for instance.)

Price is what companies think you will pay, not necessarily what the product is worth. If you’re afraid of the shoddy work of the theoretical lowest bidder, that means that quality standards must be raised, not that quality should be judged on how expensive the product is. In fact, I have some swampland in Florida I’d like to sell you. It’s just $493,000 an acre.


  1. The industry that makes supplies and equipment for people with disabilities really takes advantage of the need. A person who can’t use the toilet because they can’t use their legs or arms HAS to have adult size diapers eventually, and the cost for them is disgusting. Parents send kids to my classroom in diapers that are too small because they can’t afford to start buying hundreds per month of the adult sized ones.

    Comment by froregon — September 1, 2008 @ 8:06 am

  2. Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

    Comment by sandrar — September 10, 2009 @ 5:26 am

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