Bush expected to resurrect HME proposals

Sunday, February 4, 2007

WASHINGTON - The 2008 budget that President Bush unveils today will likely include a ghost of HME past: a proposal to reduce the 36-month cap on Medicare oxygen reimbursement to 13 months.

Additionally, the budget will likely resurrect a proposal to eliminate the first month purchase option for power wheelchairs.

"That's what we've been told verbally," Seth Johnson, vice president of government affairs for Pride Mobility, said Friday afternoon.

Both proposals were included in Bush's 2007 budget, but neither was enacted by Congress.

The industry is armed to beat back both proposals, sources said. It already has a bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to repeal the 36-month cap.

"Once they have something like the oxygen cap scored by the CBO, they're going to keep trying to insert it wherever they can," said John Gallagher, The VGM Group's vice president of government relations. "That's why we need to be diligent about getting back to members of Congress about H.R. 621 so something like (the 13-month cap) doesn't slide through."

Pride Mobility has a position paper arguing that eliminating the first month purchase option for power wheelchairs would cost--not save--Medicare money, Johnson said.

AAHomecare expects to release multiple statements today informing the industry of the HME-related proposals in Bush's budget and calling providers to action, Michael Reinemer, vice president of communications and policy, said on Friday.

Bush's budget could also include a 1% across-the-board cut for all providers (except physicians) who bill Medicare Part A and B, Reinemer said.

With Democrats in power, the industry likes its chances of beating back the proposals, sources said.

"We're confident that Congress won't take action on a quite a few of these provisions," Johnson said. "The Democrats aren't going to pursue policies that could be harmful to Medicare beneficiaries."