Bid fight moves to Senate

‘We’ve got a lot more we need to accomplish’
Friday, March 20, 2015

WASHINGTON – No sooner had the House of Representatives passed a bill that would reform the competitive bidding program, than things started moving in the Senate. 

The House on March 16 voted unanimously to pass H.R. 284, which would require binding bids and proof of licensure.

“The Senate has been watching this,” said Jay Witter, senior vice president of public policy for AAHomecare. “As soon as the bill passed, I was getting emails.”

H.R. 284, which was introduced Jan. 12, was marked up by the House Ways and Means Committee on Feb. 26 and received a favorable score from the Congressional Budget Office on March 12.

Before the vote in the House, Rep. Patrick Tiberi, who introduced the bill along with Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., took to the House floor.

“I’ve heard from seniors, beneficiaries and small businesses that the program is impeding access to needed items for seniors and ultimately harming health and making costs more expensive for our seniors and the program itself,” he said. “This is absolutely unacceptable.”

Now, the focus is on getting a Senate companion bill passed. Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Ben Cardin, D-Md., introduced S. 148 on Jan. 12. It has five co-sponsors.

Like the House and its suspension calendar, the Senate has an expedited process called “hotlining,” a process in which the majority leader and minority leader agree to pass legislation by unanimous consent.

“We have two strong champions in Portman and Cardin—they’ve been pushing with the Senate Finance Committee and leadership on this for a while now,” said Witter. “(After the vote), their offices contacted Senate leadership about moving this bill quickly.”

Stakeholders acknowledge that things move much slower in the Senate—there is no timetable yet for a vote on S. 148. In the meantime, they’re focusing on bumping up the number of co-sponsors for the bill.

Although H.R. 284 comes too late to help those in the Round 2 re-compete, it’s important to keep pushing for reform, stakeholders say. 

“This is momentous for the industry,” said Tom Ryan, president and CEO of AAHomecare. “Get out there and fight, and make a difference. We’ve got a lot more we need to accomplish.”