Bid relief: Time to rack up co-signers, stakeholders say

‘It’s not time for grassroots to sit back’
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Thursday, September 21, 2017

WASHINGTON – Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, R-Wash., began circulating a sign-on letter Sept. 19 to put pressure on the Office of Management and Budget to move on a competitive bidding-related interim final rule that’s currently under its review.

“Our champion Cathy McMorris-Rodgers feels that there has been some push back from the OMB and she wants to use some congressional pressure to see if it can help to clear the rule,” said Tom Ryan, president and CEO of AAHomecare. “It’s another tool in our bag.”

The still-under-wraps IFR, titled “Durable Medical Equipment Fee Schedule, Adjustment to Resume the Transitional 50/50 Blended Rates to Provider Relief in Non-Competitive Bidding Areas,” has been sitting at the OMB since Aug. 24, according to AAHomecare.

The push back likely has to do with the cost associated with the rule, stakeholders say.

“If it says what we hope it says—that we get rates effective Jan. 1, 2017, that are based on the rates on Jan. 1, 2016—there’s going to be some cost to that,” Ryan said. “They probably need convincing.”

And stakeholders are doing just that. Earlier this month, AAHomecare officials met with OMB officials to share with them the access issues and cost shifting that have occurred since CMS rolled out competitive bidding nationwide on Jan. 1, 2016.

“We talked about the 42% reduction in the number of providers—the infrastructure is crumbling,” Ryan said. “We also talked about how the nationals won’t be a safety net. They’re experiencing the same closures.”

The letter is not just an exercise, stakeholders say: With a strong number of co-signers, it could spur the OMB into action. A similar letter spearheaded by McMorris-Rodgers earlier this year drew 154 co-signers and helped to spur CMS to send the IFR to the OMB.

“These letters are political cover,” said Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare. “No one in Washington, D.C., wants to be standing on their own branch. It’s important for (OMB Director Mick Mulvaney) to know that, clearly the administration supports it, but also it has bi-partisan support in the House.”

The letter also serves to raise the IFR above the din in a chaotic administration and Congress, stakeholders said.

“To be fair, they have a lot on their plates right now, so this may be a case where the squeaky wheel gets the grease,” said John Gallagher, vice president of government relations for the VGM Group. “We want to be the squeaky wheel.”

With the letter circulating only until Sept. 26, there’s a short window to rack up co-signers, stakeholders say.

“It’s no time for the grassroots to sit back,” Ryan said.