AAH's Gorski knows his way around beltway

Saturday, March 31, 2007

There has been no shortage of issues keeping Walt Gorski busy since he took on the job of vice president of government affairs for AAHomecare late last year. Luckily, with 15 years of lobbying experience, the former staffer of Pete Stark, D-Calif.--the new chairman of the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee--Gorski knows his way around the Beltway. He spoke with HME News recently about working with a new Congress on some familiar issues.
HME News: New Congress, new opportunity?
Walt Gorski: We do believe that there are excellent opportunities with the new Congress from the standpoint of having a fair hearing of our issues, which is what any association truly hopes for--that policy-makers are making decisions based on the most accurate information and with the needs of the patient at heart. (Our issues) are very patient-centric issues, and I think the Democrats, particularly Mr. Stark, are very wedded to that approach.
HME: There are a lot of promises of bipartisanship. Is that truly possible?
Gorski: Mr. Stark has historically worked very much on a bipartisan basis. During the time I worked for him, he was enacting changes to Medicare, and he always had the support of his ranking Republican member. He believes that bipartisanship is the best way to move forward. He clearly has his own views with regard to managed care, the pharmaceutical industry and a number of other issues that differ from where many of the Republicans' are, but I do think he will work toward forging consensus on these key issues.
HME: Does the industry need to change its lobbying tactics?
Gorski: I don't think we need a wholesale change. I think that a lot of good work has been done. It's a matter of being even more proactive--rather than being reactive--on any number of fronts, whether it's competitive bidding, oxygen, home health. Clearly, being reactive puts you at a disadvantage during a negotiation.
HME: How will the Democrats operate?
Gorski: The Democrats are taking fiscal responsibility very seriously. And with the enactment of "PAYGO" rules--if you want to change something you have to be able to pay for it--the Democrats want to show that they can govern and they can govern well, and that they are not fiscally irresponsible. At the same time, if you couple that with the desire to slow the growth in Medicare spending and trim the federal budget, those issues clearly represent challenges.
HME: There is a lot of optimism that the oxygen cap can be repealed, but aren't many of the arguments the same? What makes this round different?
Gorski: In the past, many times, the Democrats were not consulted at the end of the day. Now they are in control and we will continue to work on that bipartisan basis to press issues of concern to the industry and the patients who receive the care. The same themes travel through all the issues on the HME and home health fronts. It is up to the advocates, here at AAHomecare, and others in the field to make the case about the danger of transferring forced ownership to patients.