Competitive bidding round up: Industry scores small victories

Thursday, June 3, 2010

WASHINGTON - Congress may have been on break last week, but HME stakeholders and providers weren't, not with a program like competitive bidding hanging over their heads.

Here's a roundup of some of their activities:

*    Industry stakeholders and providers met with lawmakers in their home districts to drum up support for H.R. 3790, a bill that would repeal competitive bidding. One of those providers was Larry Anderson of Alliance Home Care in Prescott Valley, Ariz., who hosted Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., for a site visit, according to a bulletin from The VGM Group. "The congresswoman was very appreciative of the information that he supplied," the bulletin stated. Also, Madonna Long, a consumer advocate for Pride Mobility Products, met with Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., who, at the end of their meeting, agreed to co-sponsor the bill, according to Seth Johnson, vice president of government affairs for Pride. Going into the recess, H.R. 3790 had 242 co-sponsors.

*    The Texas Alliance for Home Care Services (TAHCS) and Dallas Oxygen got some good news about its lawsuit to halt competitive bidding. CMS had requested that a Washington, D.C., appellate court determine whether judicial review is allowed under the Administrative Procedures Act and the court denied the agency's request. "Now we can go forward," said Barry Johnson, president of TAHCS. In the lawsuit, which is being handled by Multinational Legal Services, an affiliate of the Center for Regulatory Effectiveness, TAHCS and Dallas Oxygen argue that CMS can't implement competitive bidding because the agency hasn't specified the financial standards that providers must meet as part of the program.

*    The industry learned that Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., chairman of the Subcommittee on Health of the Energy and Commerce Committee, plans to hold a hearing on competitive bidding in late July. Stakeholders may try to delay the hearing until September, when CMS is scheduled to announce winning bidders, Johnson said. "The timing of the hearing is a key factor as to whether there's a positive or negative outcome from it for the industry," he said. "The only additional information that we're going to have between now and the end of July is the winning amounts and those aren't expected to be good. If we can push it out until the winners are announced, there might be a better outcome."

*    The Jersey Association for Medical Equipment Services (JAMES), in collaboration with AAHomecare, issued a press release to the media outlining the negative impact of competitive bidding on seniors and providers in the state. The release is part of AAHomecare's multi-state campaign to raise awareness of the flawed program.

*    The Accredited Medical Equipment Providers Association (AMEPA) encouraged members to also seek support for H.R. 3790 from the Building Owners and Managers Association International (BOMA), "one of the most powerful national associations," it stated in a bulletin. "If BOMA was added as a supporter of HR 3790, it would give tremendous credibility to our argument," the group stated.