Dave Hobson: A Capitol friend

Friday, December 31, 2004

If the legislative play hatched by Rep. Dave Hobson, R, Ohio, succeeds, every DMEPOS supplier will enjoy a bottom line that’s got anywhere from 3% to 23% more cushion in select product categories. That legislation - H.R. 4491 - is now making the rounds on Capitol Hill and would repeal that provision of the MMA which calls for reimbursement reductions of 10-20% for home oxygen, 20% for hospital beds and 23% for nebulizers.

Of course, no one expects this legislation to pass. It’s part of a legislative / regulatory strategy that works this way: If CMS sees considerable legislative interest in a repeal of this MMA provision, CMS may simply decide that it needs to study the sagacity of using Federal Employee Health Benefit Plans (FEHBP) as justification for price reductions.

Hobson set this ball in motion. But it may very well stand as an act of atonement. Last fall, Hobson voted for a House bill that included competitive bidding. It was a real squeaker, passing by just one vote, but Hobson threw his hat in the reformer’s ring, believing that a “reasonable accord” would preclude inclusion of the onerous provision in a final bill.

That reasonable accord didn’t come to pass and Hobson, along with several Senators, threatened to oppose a next generation version of the bill if it included competitive bidding. It did and Hobson made good on his promise and voted with the legislation’s opponents 218-216 to defeat the measure.

Then, during a now infamous three-hour roll call, the House leadership twisted Hobson’s arm and he switched his vote. Later, he told stunned industry supporters he’d exacted a written promise from House leaders who said they would visit the issue again this year. We’ll see about that.

In the meantime, Hobson has persuaded Bill Thomas, R, Calif., to lend his name to a letter that questions the use of FEHBP data to make cuts to DME payment rates. Call that one large step toward redemption.