Bills update: Industry keeps truckin'

Sunday, March 4, 2007

WASHINGTON - The HME industry expects Rep. John Tanner, D-Tenn., to re-introduce the Hobson-Tanner bill this week, possibly with two new provisions that would further soften the blow of national competitive bidding.

Rumor has it the bill may include an any-willing-provider provision, allowing any provider to supply HME if he agrees to do so at the competitive bidding price. Previous versions of the bill made that exemption only for small businesses.

The bill may also include a provision requiring CMS to study competitive bidding's affect on access and providers.

"(Rep. Tanner) continues to recognize the concern that competitive bidding creates in the beneficiary and provider communities," said Walt Gorski, vice president of government affairs for AAHomecare.

CMS plans to kick off competitive bidding this year.

The industry has continued to make progress with another bill, the Home Oxygen Patient Protection Act. H.R. 621, introduced Jan. 22 by Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., aims to repeal the 36-month cap on Medicare oxygen reimbursement.

The bill has 40 co-sponsors. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., plans to introduce a companion bill in the Senate in mid-March, Gorski said.

During Congress' February recess, industry stakeholders met with legislators to lobby for both bills. Tom Bradley, president of Petersen Medical in Orem, Utah, and president of the newly formed Utah Medical Equipment Dealers (UTMED), hosted Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, who agreed to co-sponsor H.R. 621 and review the Hobson-Tanner bill when it's introduced.

"We took him on a tour, and he asked great questions," Bradley said. "I was excited that he was even asking questions, let alone good ones. You could tell he was overwhelmed, in terms of what goes into the oxygen business. It seems much simpler than it is."

Additionally, representatives from the New England Medical Equipment Dealers (NEMED) met with Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt. Pride Mobility and MedStar Surgical in College Point, N.Y., met with Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. The group spoke with Rangel about the Hobson-Tanner and oxygen bills and raised $30,000 for the senator, said Wayne Grau, director of rehab industry affairs for Pride Mobility.

"(Rangel) understands our issues and wants to help," he said.

The big push for meetings will be from April 1-13, Congress' district work period, Grau said.