Bills could deliver 'one-two punch' to bid program

Friday, June 21, 2013

WASHINGTON – A bill that would delay the expansion of competitive bidding could get fast-tracked through the House of Representatives, say industry stakeholders.

Reps. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., and Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, introduced H.R. 2375, the “Transparency Accountability in Medicare Bidding Act of 2013,” on June 14. The bill would delay the implementation of Round 2, scheduled to go live July 1, until Dec. 31, 2013, and the Round 1 re-compete, set for Jan. 1, 2014, until six months after Round 2.

“Congressman Thompson wants to move this very quickly,” said Jay Witter, vice president of government affairs for AAHomecare. “They will take the legislation to House leadership to see about expediting the process.”

Stakeholders say that, typically, bills must go through a process of committees and debates, and lawmakers must gather co-sponsors. However, lawmakers can put non-controversial bills on what’s called “the suspension calendar.” When that happens, there’s a quick debate from each side and then a vote. The bill would need Yeas from two-thirds of lawmakers to pass.

H.R. 2375 also calls for three auction experts, a health economist and an econometrician to independently review and assess Round 1 and Round 2.

Thompson and Braley introduced the bill after CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner indicated, in response to a Dear Colleague letter signed by 227 members of Congress, that she would not delay competitive bidding, say stakeholders.

With the start date of Round 2 just days away, a delay is critical to buy time for stakeholders and lawmakers to push through H.R. 1717, a bill that would replace competitive bidding with a market-pricing program (MPP). This bill currently has 132 co-sponsors.

“It’s a one-two punch,” said Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare. “Right now, the message is the same: This program has to be stopped because there are such fundamental flaws and CMS just blithely goes on.”

Stakeholders are exhausting every tool to get that done. Last week, AAHomecare and Havre de Grace, Md.-based Home Mediservice filed a lawsuit against Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, asking her to stop the implementation of Round 2 because of licensure issues (see next story).

“We have worked the legislative avenue and continue to do that,” Witter said. “We have tried to work with the administration. We are now working with the courts and trying to do everything possible to stop competitive bidding before July 1.”