Cleland allies with HMEs

Sunday, June 30, 2002

WASHINGTON - Denouncing the national competitive bidding project and the "homebound" definition, Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.) became a spokesperson for the HME industry at the AAHomecare Legislative Conference last month.
"Count me as an ally and a friend," Cleland told providers and consumers, who were easily won over by the charismatic senator. "Home health care is a solution in the healthcare crisis, not the problem."

Indeed, Cleland's no stranger to the value of home health care. The 60-year-old was wounded in Vietnam and has sat in a wheelchair ever since.

"When I was wounded in '68 from a grenade explosion, and I was in the hospital, I wanted to be home," Cleland said. "I can't help but think that's a basic desire all people have."

During his address, Cleland denounced competitive bidding, saying: "It sounds good, but it's a red herring, even a sham. It means fewer patient options. It'll reduce the availability of services for those with special needs. I don't want this to become law."

That last statement drew tremendous applause from providers and consumers.

Cleland also denounced the rigidity of the current "homebound" definition, saying: "Today, if a [Medicare beneficiary] leaves for the doctor or a religious service, he's OK. But if he wants to visit his family, he's in violation of the statute. To me, that sounds like house arrest."

Dave Williams, a friend of Cleland's, said the HME industry could count on Cleland to fight against national competitive bidding in the Senate.

"He's not a flash in the pan," said Williams, director of government relations for Invacare. "I've met with him since the conference, and he wants talking points so he can rebut arguments for competitive bidding." HME