Determined stakeholders take case to Hill

‘That brush—Medicare—paints everything,’ said one provider
 - 
Friday, May 24, 2019

WASHINGTON – HME stakeholders weren’t lacking in “asks” going into AAHomecare’s Washington Legislative Conference last week, with a number of bills and letters targeting Medicare’s competitive bidding program in place.

The bills included H.R. 2771, which would provide relief from the bid program in rural and non-rural non-bid areas, and eliminate the budget neutrality requirement for oxygen; and the letters included sign-on letters in the House of Representatives and Senate asking CMS to drop non-invasive vents from Round 2021.

“The interesting thing about AAHomecare is the number and diversity of issues (it’s involved with), representing all aspects of home care,” said Steve Ackerman, chairman of the association’s board of directors and CEO of Spectrum Medical in Silver Spring, Md. “For me, it can be a little daunting to be an expert in all of these, but you don’t have to be. You need to be sincere and talk about the issues that are germane to your business and clients.”

Also a topic of discussion during nearly 300 lobbying meetings on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday: bills to stop competitive bidding pricing for complex rehab manual wheelchairs (H.R. 2293 and S. 1223), and a bill to create a separate benefit for complex rehab technology (H.R. 2408).

Even for providers who don’t rely on Medicare for much of their business or haven’t held bid contracts in past rounds of the program, being on the Hill last week was a top priority.

“It’s about a pushback against healthcare policies, in general,” said Gregory LoPresti, CEO of Upstate Homecare in Clinton, N.Y. “So goes Medicare, so go private payers.”

That was also the motivation for Central Ohio Specialty Care in Columbus, which does most of its business with pediatric patients and Medicaid.

“That brush—Medicare—paints everything,” said John Reed, executive vice president.

Having providers like Upstate Homecare and Central Ohio Specialty Care there was good because, with 37% of HME locations closing since the bid program kicked off, it needs to be all remaining hands on deck.

“The Ohio contingency (at this event) used to be 30 people,” said Nick Kalogeras, a partner at Central Ohio Specialty Care. “We used to worry about it being overwhelming for the offices we were visiting. Now there’s six or seven of us.”

Still, providers are determined by the belief that the worst is behind them.

“I feel like there’s oxygen returning to the industry after many years,” Ackerman said.