Bid program to dominate conference

Thursday, January 5, 2012

ALEXANDRIA, Va. - The HME industry needs all hands on deck if it wants to be heard during this year's AAHomecare Washington Legislative Conference, association officials say.

"We can't pass up an opportunity to make sure everybody knows what HME is about and why it's important to preserve access to this type of care," said Michael Reinemer, vice president of communications and policy. "Everyone else is here banging pots and pans and insisting their issues are the most important."

This year's Legislative Conference takes place Feb. 15-16 at the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel in Washington, D.C. AAHomecare has kept the registration rates for this year's conference the same as last year's: $245 for members and $355 for non-members.

Speaking again this year: Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., who introduced H.R. 1041, a bill to repeal competitive bidding, in March.

"One of the reasons why we appreciate return appearances by HME champions, such as Rep. Thompson, is that they can offer insight into the legislative 'lay of the land' and can discuss the obstacles or opportunities that may hinder or help progress toward our specific goals," said Reinemer.

Also speaking will be Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., and industry lobbyists. The heart of the conference, however, remains the Capitol Hill visits.

"This is a place where people can begin to make those conversations," said Reinemer. "If you can make those connections, it makes a huge difference for the rest of the year."

Attendees certainly have a full plate of issues to discuss this year, including audits and prepay reviews for power wheelchairs. Still, expect competitive bidding to be the primary topic of conversation, says Tyler Wilson, president and CEO of AAHomecare.

"Two years ago, we talked prospectively about our concerns with competitive bidding," said Wilson. "Now the program is in full force and we are seeing these detrimental effects."

Last year, conference attendees had the newly introduced H.R. 1041 to talk about. This year, AAHomecare is keeping its fingers crossed that its proposed market pricing program will have found a legislative vehicle by the conference.

Either way, with competitive bidding expanding into an additional 91 areas, it will be easier to catch the attention of those lawmakers who previously may have been unconcerned about the program.

"Any time you can take an issue out of the abstract and relate it back to their districts, that's a positive," said Wilson.



The only thing that will stop competitive bidding is political pressure from beneficiaries. Short of a major systemic failure in the system as it converts to competitive bidding, this is inevitable.