Bid relief nears finish line

 - 
Friday, December 2, 2016

WASHINGTON – The HME industry is within spitting distance of rolling back certain Medicare reimbursement cuts after the 21st Century Cures Act sailed through the House of Representatives last week.

The legislation, which passed Nov. 30 by a vote of 392 to 26, would roll back a second round of Medicare reimbursement cuts that went into effect this year in non-competitive bidding areas from June 30, 2016, to Dec. 31, 2016. But the cuts would again go into effect on Jan. 1, 2017.

“Obviously, we are disappointed it’s not a more permanent fix,” said Tom Ryan, president and CEO of AAHomecare. “This will give our providers a bump in cash, which is good, but from an operational standpoint, they still have to meet the challenges of those same rates Jan. 1.”

The Cures Act also requires the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct a study on the impact of the bidding program on the overall number of HME providers and the availability of HME during 2016. New data shows a decrease in PTANs and a 37% decrease in tax ID numbers for HME providers, according to AAHomecare.

The six-month roll back of the second round of cuts will give providers cash in hand to hang on longer while stakeholders and their champions in Congress work on a more permanent fix during the first half of 2017.

“There are legislative and regulatory opportunities in the near future that we and others will look at as opportunities to attach our issues to and get longer-term relief,” said Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare.

Those opportunities include passing a federal budget and a possible “semi-repeal” of the Affordable Care Act, Bachenheimer says.

The Senate is expected to take up the Cures Act early this week, and stakeholders say they don’t anticipate any significant issues. Although the 11th-hour failure of previous bid delay legislation in July still smarts, this time the industry will benefit from being attached to a much larger vehicle.

“I think between the House and the administration’s support and the patient support, it’s going to be pretty hard to vote against this thing,” said Ryan.