City Council cheers carve-out cause

Monday, June 30, 2008

PITTSBURGH--When it comes to garnering support for the rehab carve-out bill, industry advocate Mark Schmeler isn’t afraid to mix local, state and federal politics.

Schemeler, a faculty member at the University of Pittsburgh, convinced the Pittsburgh City Council to craft a resolution that calls on U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., to sign on to H.R. 2231, which would exempt complex rehab from national competitive bidding. He expected the nine-member council to pass the resolution at a June 24 meeting.

“(Doyle’s) been kind of sitting on the fence,” Schmeler said. “He’s a Democrat and the council members are Democrats, so if he doesn’t sign on, it’s kind of like a dis to the party.”

Four representatives from Pennsylvania have already signed on to H.R. 2231: Jason Altmire, Paul Kanjorski, Tim Murphy and Joe Sestak.

Convincing the council members to craft the resolution wasn’t a hard sell, Schmeler said.

“All I had to say was that only two locally-based providers were given awards in the complex rehab category,” he said. “We all know city councils prefer to keep business in their communities.”

The two locally-based providers with contracts are Tarentum, Pa.-based Blackburn’s and Ford City, Pa.-based Klingensmith.

Council members were also sympathetic to Schmeler’s and the industry’s concerns that competitive bidding will take choice away from consumers and clinicians.