Bid delay bill gets lost in chaos

‘There were a lot of lawmakers thinking, ‘Are you kidding me?’’
Friday, July 22, 2016

WASHINGTON – The results of a postmortem on a bill that would have delayed a second round of Medicare reimbursement cuts are, well, complicated.

Initially, industry stakeholders believed a senator (or senators) put a “hold” on the House of Representatives-approved bill, killing its chances of passing before Congress adjourned for a long recess on July 14.

Now, they’re not so sure. They think the Senate may have just ran out of time to fully vet the bill, which it was less familiar with and which contained a number of non-HME specific Medicare and Medicaid-related provisions.

“It was taking the Senate time to go through it,” said Jay Witter, senior vice president of public policy for AAHomecare. “It was chaos. They were trying to get answers to questions, and they just ran out of time.”

It didn’t help, stakeholders say, that scheduled votes on high-profile bills fell through, prompting senators to pack up late on July 14 instead of July 15 as planned, not to return until after Labor Day in September.

Stakeholders maintain the lawmakers who passed bills to delay the cuts in the House and the Senate, and the leadership in the Senate that was managing the recent “hotline process” are in shock themselves about what happened.

“They are emboldened even more to get something substantive done in September,” said Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare. “The momentum was so strong, and the disappointment so great. There were a lot of lawmakers thinking, are you kidding me?”

Stakeholders are already meeting with staffers to discuss their options. At this point, a go-forward delay may be their best bet, but “everything is on the table.”

“Everyone agrees we don’t want a ‘message’ bill,” Witter said. “We want something that gets signed into law, so we have to talk serious strategy.”

One lesson learned postmortem, stakeholders say: Get consensus from the House and Senate on one bill from the get-go.

“We need solid agreement before anything gets passed,” Bachenheimer said.

Since stakeholders aren’t sure whether or not a senator put a “hold” on the bill, they also need to get to the bottom of that.

“Personally, I think someone put a hold on it,” said John Gallagher, vice president of government relations at VGM & Associates. “If it was a hold, we need to find out why and rectify that, so it doesn’t happen again.”