Competitive bidding: The fight goes on

Sunday, April 19, 2009

YARMOUTH, Maine - Industry stakeholders chalked up some small victories in the days leading up to the national competitive bidding rule taking effect, but a last-minute reprieve never materialized before April 18.

Last week, industry stakeholders were able to get numerous lawmakers to send letters to the Department of Health and Humans Services (HHS), CMS and the White House expressing their concerns with competitive bidding (See "Mailbox" below). Unaffected, CMS announced Friday afternoon that there would be no delay.

"But we've got to keep beating the drum," said Wayne Stanfield, president of the National Association of Independent Medical Equipment Suppliers (NAIMES).

Things could start picking up this week as lawmakers head back to work after a two-week break. One of the things on their agenda: Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' nomination for HHS secretary.

"It's unfortunate the secretary hasn't been confirmed yet," said Seth Johnson, vice president of government affairs for Pride Mobility Products. "Clearly she's going to be the one that ultimately makes the determination as to how and when the program goes forward."

AAHomecare created a competitive bidding task force last week--comprised mainly of providers--that will work with a Washington, D.C., healthcare consulting firm to develop several cost estimates for eliminating the program.

"The key challenge is coming up with a way to eliminate the program in the current pay-go environment," said Michael Reinemer, the association's vice president of communications and policy.

Also last week, the Ohio Association of Medical Equipment Services (OAMES) hosted forums in Cincinnati and Cleveland to draw attention to the negative effects of NCB on patients and businesses. Ohio has several cities included in Rounds 1 and 2 of the program.

In its announcement, CMS stated: "Based upon its review and on the need to ensure that CMS is able to meet the statutory deadlines contained in MIPPA, the Administration has concluded that the effective date should not be further delayed."


Last week, a "Dear Colleague" letter written by Rep. Betty Sutton, D-Ohio, and signed by 83 representatives was sent to HHS Acting Secretary Charles Johnson, CMS Acting Administrator Laurence Wilson and White House Health Care Reform Director Nancy-Ann DeParle. The letter asks CMS and the White House to rescind the competitive bidding rule.

Also last week, Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., sent a letter to Johnson stating his support for rescinding the rule; and Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, who chairs the Populist Caucus, sent a letter to DeParle asking her to rescind the program.

Additionally, The VGM Group asked Braley to work with Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Chairman Frank Pallone, D-N.J, to include language to delay the program in the markup for the healthcare reform package.