Lawmakers question program to cut medical equipment costs

Makers and sellers of wheelchairs, oxygen machines and other medical equipment are on the verge of getting Congress to delay, if not scrap, a new program the Bush administration says would save Medicare about $1 billion a year.

For years, lawmakers and the Bush administration have complained that Medicare pays much more than private insurers and the general public for medical equipment. For example, Medicare pays $1,825 for a hospital bed that can be found on the Internet for about $750, says the program's acting administrator Kerry Weems.

In 2003, Congress authorized a new payment system. It determined that Medicare would quit paying a set fee that the government updates annua