Audits top issues at conference

Friday, April 25, 2014

WASHINGTON – AAHomecare officials are working to get an audit reform bill introduced in the House of Representatives in time to take it to Capitol Hill during the annual Legislative Conference May 6-8.

“We’re seeking sponsors as we speak,” said Jay Witter, vice president of government affairs for AAHomecare. “At a minimum, we are trying to at least get co-sponsors to say they will champion the bill.”

The bill is part of a multi-pronged campaign to reform Medicare’s audit program. The campaign also includes Save My Medical Supplies, a new initiative aimed at getting consumers more involved in the issue.

In years past, the spotlight at the conference has been on competitive bidding, but with audits reaching a crisis point in recent months, it’s only natural that they will take center stage, say stakeholders.

Still, competitive bidding remains a huge problem, despite CMS’s claims to the contrary. Stakeholders point out that CMS recently awarded new contracts to two local providers in Hawaii, where only 13 of 97 contracts went to local providers, to help alleviate access problems.

“I think this happens more than anybody realizes,” said Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare. “It’s difficult to keep track. CMS has done a good job of covering up these issues and dealing with them as they come up.”

Other issues that stakeholders expect to talk up during the conference: the face-to-face requirement, the separate benefit for complex rehab, and repair issues.

With the announcement April 22 that Jonathan Blum is stepping down as director and principal deputy administrator at CMS, stakeholders are cautiously optimistic that his replacement, Sean Cavannaugh, will prove easier to work with. Cavannaugh, deputy director for programs and policy in the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovations, has had experience working with DME issues in the past and has a background in economics that could be a plus for the HME industry, stakeholders say.

“We are working on (being able to show) our return on investment so we can reach out to him purely from an economic standpoint,” said John Gallagher, vice president of government relations for The VGM Group. “Dollars spent on DME are dollars saved.”