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AAH's Ryan: 'We are so close'

AAH's Ryan: 'We are so close' Industry stakeholders hit the Hill with letter to appeal for bid relief

WASHINGTON - The timing of AAHomecare's Washington Legislative Conference couldn't have been better, Tom Ryan told attendees on Wednesday, the day before their Capitol Hill meetings.

The day before, on Tuesday, a “Dear Colleague” letter began circulating on the Hill appealing to Tom Price, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, and Seema Verma, CMS administrator, to intervene and provide relief from Medicare's competitive bidding program.

“There's no score or procedure (required of this letter),” said Ryan, president and CEO of the association. “It's a simple ask. Look (your representative) in the eye and ask them to sign this letter.”

The letter, spearheaded by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., and five other representatives, asks Price and Verma to use their administrative authority to, among other things, freeze reimbursement in non-bid areas at the Jan. 1, 2016 rates.

While providers may be frustrated by the lack of action thus far from Price, a long-time industry champion, Ryan reminded them that HHS is a large agency and that DME represents only 1.2% of its budget.

“We are moving the needle at the top,” he said. “We are so close.”

Ryan set as a goal getting at least 150 representatives to sign on to the letter following the week's Hill meetings.

“This letter is an opportunity to walk (bid relief) over the finish line,” he said.

The timing of the letter and leveraging its momentum was so important that AAHomecare prioritized more time for meetings on the Hill on Wednesday afternoon, in lieu of booking congressional speakers.

“This year it's vital that we get you on the Hill, get out the ask and get signatures quick,” said Jay Witter, the senior vice president of public policy at AAHomecare.

The letter also asks Price and Verma to consider more long-term fixes to make the competitive bidding program more “efficient and sustainable”; to permanently protect accessories for complex power wheelchairs from bid-related reimbursement cuts; and to reverse a recent “double-dip” cut to oxygen concentrators.

“This is a letter (that contains) every issue we've been working on,” Ryan said.

In addition to Rodgers, the original co-signers of the letter are Reps. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y.; Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa; Diana DeGette, D-Colo.; Larry Bucshon, R-Ind.; and Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.

“The fires are burning—our issues are upfront,” said Steve Ackerman, the new chairman of the board of directors at AAHomecare, and president and CEO of Spectrum Medical. “Now we have to fan those fires.”


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