U.S. regulators plan to proceed with a program requiring durable medical equipment suppliers led by Lincare Holdings Inc. and Apria Healthcare Group Inc. to bid to sell to Medicare beneficiaries. A nine-city trial saved about $130 million in the first half of the year, led to almost 100 retail stores opening and hasn't harmed patient care, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said. Expanding to 91 more metropolitan areas by July 2013 and nationwide in 2016 will cut prices for wheelchairs, oxygen tanks and diabetes-testing supplies, saving the U.S. $17 billion in a decade, said Jonathan Blum, the deputy administrator overseeing Medicare, the health program for the elderly and disabled. Suppliers grew to 714 from 622, he said. The effort will lead to business closings and access issues for Medicare beneficiaries, according to Apria of Lakewood Forest, CA, owned by New York-based Blackstone Group LP, and Clearwater, FL-based Lincare, as well as manufacturers led by Elyria, Ohio-based Invacare Corp. The companies are trying to have competitive bidding scrapped.