AAHomecare encourages involvement

Thursday, April 14, 2011

LAS VEGAS - Providers need to get involved if they want to see positive changes in federal policy, said AAHomecare's Tyler Wilson Wednesday.

"We all have to become advocates," said Wilson, president of AAHomecare, during the association's Washington Update at Medtrade Spring. "Talk about what you know, what you're passionate about."

Wilson encouraged HME providers to get in touch with their members of Congress.

Of course, the biggest issue facing the HME industry remains Medicare's competitive bidding program. Currently, H.R. 1041, the bill to repeal the program has 80 co-sponsors. Patient groups have also increasingly played a role in moving the legislation forward, said Wilson.

"If we want to get this rolling, in the long run, we've got to get more than just the HME industry involved," he said.

However, the industry still plays a vital role.

"We have to continue to be vocal," said Wilson. "There's still a lot of work to do. We need to demonstrate with first-hand, reportable information, the problems of Round 1."

The challenge competitive bidding opponents are facing, Wilson said, is that there is no consensus in the industry on what to do about it: repeal it altogether, replace it with another form of competitive bidding or something else.

"It's easier to repeal something if you have something else to replace it with," said Wilson.

Dean Rosen, a lobbyist working with AAHomecare, agreed, telling attendees that Washington is facing a scenario in which all government spending would go toward Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and paying down the national debt, eliminating funding for things like defense, highways and schools by 2025. Lawmakers are trying to cut spending by $4 trillion to prevent that scenario.

Competitive bidding is supposed to save $20 billion, Rosen said, so repealing it will be challenging.

"The industry has a lot at stake," Rosen said. "We're going to have to be part of the solution."

There is a perception that HME providers cannot influence policymakers in Washington, said Walt Gorski, vice president of government affairs for AAHomecare, but that's not the case.

"Steady pressure over time will crack any rock, and, frankly, steady pressure over time makes diamonds," he said.

Providers need to be vocal about competitive bidding issues, Gorski said.

"Complaints are going to be what drives this program into the ground," he said.