D.C. update: Industry eyes new vehicle, courts candidates

Thursday, May 20, 2010

WASHINGTON - The House of Representatives is expected to vote on a bill this week that will stave off a reimbursement cut for physicians, but it won't repeal competitive bidding.

Industry stakeholders thought the "doc fix" bill might be a potential vehicle for H.R. 3790, but that was before the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) gave the bill a preliminary score of $9.6 billion over 10 years.

"We have to resolve this scoring issue," said Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare. "We're not there yet."

The industry has been working with the office of Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Fla., and others to determine 1.) how the CBO came up with its score and 2.) what pay-fors it could offer to make the bill budget neutral, likely the only way it will go anywhere.

Industry stakeholders are now eyeing a bill that Congress must pass before Sept. 30 that will likely address "fixes" that are due to expire for occupational therapy, mental health treatments and other services.

That bill could be a vehicle for not only repealing competitive bidding but also delaying the elimination of the first-month purchase option for standard power wheelchairs. The industry has a request into the CBO to determine how much it would cost to delay the provision anywhere from six months to three years.

"We hope to have the CBO score in June, build consensus on the level of the delay based on the pay-for that's necessary, and then have a couple of months to build support to get it included," said Seth Johnson, vice president of government affairs for Pride Mobility Products.

Primary elections: Industry courts new faces

WASHINGTON - Two homecare champions didn't fare well in last week's primary elections.

In Pennsylvania, Sen. Arlen Specter, who has fought to preserve the first-month purchase option for standard power wheelchairs and eliminate competitive bidding, was defeated by Rep. Joe Sestak in the Democratic primary.

In Arkansas, Sen. Blanche Lincoln, who has fought for better Medicare coverage for home infusion and breast forms, failed to win a majority in the Democratic primary, forcing a runoff election in June against Lt. Gov. Bill Halter.

Though the loss of Specter is a blow to the industry, the Accredited Medical Equipment Providers Association (AMEPA) pointed out to members last week that Sestak is a co-sponsor of H.R. 3790, the bill to eliminate competitive bidding for HME.

AMEPA also pointed out that, in Pennsylvania, Mark Critz won the seat of the late John Murtha in a special election. Critz is a long-time aide of Murtha, one of the first co-sponsors of H.R. 3790.

AAHomecare encouraged members last week to meet with the winners of the primary elections, like Critz and, in Kentucky, Rand Paul, who defeated Secretary of State Trey Grayson in the Republican primary.

"The primaries represent an opportunity for HME providers to introduce themselves to the winners, and more broadly, an opportunity to make home care part of the 2010 election dialogue," stated President Tyler Wilson in a bulletin to members.