Competitive bidding: A bill for the Hill

Sunday, March 13, 2011

WASHINGTON - When industry stakeholders convene here for AAHomecare's Washington Legislative Conference this week, they will be carrying an important piece of paper with them.

On Friday, Pennsylvania Reps. Glenn Thompson, R, and Jason Altmire, D, introduced the Fairness in Medicare Bidding Act. They plan to hold a press conference Tuesday to discuss it.

This year's annual event is expected to draw more than 250 providers to the Westin Washington.

A previous bill to repeal the program, H.R. 3790, was supported by more than 250 representatives, a number AAHomecare would like surpass this time around. One thing is certain: With competitive bidding in effect in the first 10 competitive bidding areas, providers will have some real-life examples of problems created by the program.

That's important, because CMS has been doing a "great job" with its PR, said Cara Bachenheimer.

"They are saying everything is great," said Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government affairs for Invacare. "We need to make sure that every office on the Hill hears the real side of the story."

With more than 60 freshman lawmakers, providers will have their work cut out for them getting everybody up to speed, but a March 2 briefing on the program that drew a standing room only crowd of Congressional staffers showed there is significant ongoing interest in the program, said Bachenheimer.

"It's a very controversial program," she said. "They've got to do something, and the first thing to do is get rid of competitive bidding."

On April 1, economist Peter Cramton plans to hold a "mock auction" to demonstrate how a well-designed auction could work, but Walt Gorski, vice president of government relations for AAHomecare, says only a full repeal of the program is acceptable.

"We hate competitive bidding," he said. "It will not work for health care."

For providers who can't make the trek to Washington this week, NAIMES will hold a "Virtual Fly-In" on Thursday in an effort to generate several thousand calls and e-mails to lawmakers. For more information: