Competitive bidding: AAH wants to 'piggyback' on healthcare reform battle

Thursday, January 6, 2011

WASHINGTON - Now that competitive bidding is in place, what's the HME industry's strategy? The answer to that question, right now at least, is continuing to try to repeal the program, stakeholders say.

AAHomecare sent a letter to leaders in the House of Representatives last week, asking them to include a repeal of competitive bidding in H.R. 2, the House's bill to repeal the healthcare reform law. The two initiatives have this in common, the association says: They both kill jobs.

But even if the industry succeeds and the bill passes in the House, it probably won't pass in the Senate, making it little more than a political statement, AAHomecare acknowledges.

Still, H.R. 2 will set the stage for the House to try to repeal and replace parts of the healthcare reform bill, something the industry may also consider trying to do with competitive bidding, the association says.

"I think the Republicans' challenge for repealing or replacing the health reform law is an apt analogy for our challenge for stopping or modifying competitive bidding," said Michael Reinemer, vice president of communications and policy for AAHomecare. "And we may be able to piggyback on their legislative proposals."

The House plans to vote on its "Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act" this week.

Stakeholders plan to fuel efforts to repeal or modify competitive bidding by collecting reports of problems. In the first week of the program, those problems included CMS having difficulty processing claims; suppliers being unsure about the ins and outs of subcontracting; and hospitals refusing to refer non-bid items to non-contract suppliers.

"Based on what we're hearing, the train wreck is happening," said Rose Schafhauser, executive director of the Midwest Association for Medical Equipment Services (MAMES). "Our main focus is getting that information to members of Congress and the media."

While it keeps one eye on the ball, the industry must keep its other eye on Round 2 of the program, stakeholders say. The last the industry knew, the agency planned to open registration this winter.

"We really need to do what we can to slow down the start of Round 2," said Seth Johnson, vice president of government affairs for Pride Mobility Products.

Some stakeholders want the industry to look even farther down the road.

"What needs to be addressed, longer term, is a rewrite of the DME benefit to recognize the services that it provides," said Wayne Stanfield, executive director of NAIMES. "It needs to be brought into the 21st century."