Election coverage: 'Will there be the political will?'

Thursday, October 28, 2010

WASHINGTON - It's unclear whether tomorrow's elections will impact the HME industry's efforts to repeal competitive bidding, stakeholders say.

The industry has been lobbying members of the House of Representatives to attach H.R. 3790 to a larger bill during a lame-duck session after the elections. But who gains power in the elections may determine how much Congress takes on the rest of this year, stakeholders say.

"With respect to competitive bidding and the first-month purchase option, a lot will depend on the size of the bills, which will be a function of who's going to control Congress," said Walt Gorski, vice president of government affairs for AAHomecare. "If the Republicans take over one or two chambers of Congress, I think that there will be less of an inclination by the Democrats to pass broader bills. They may decide to let Republicans address these issues next year."

One election race that's drawing particular attention in the industry: That of Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Fla., who's running for a Senate seat. Meek sponsored H.R. 3790, which has 257 co-sponsors.

But regardless of whether Meek wins or loses, H.R. 3790 will remain "alive" until the 111th Congress adjourns, probably some time in December, stakeholders say.

"The more relevant question is, will there be the political will by someone in the Democratic leadership to move the bill to the floor before the end of the session?" said Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare.

With so many variables legislatively--add to that an unfavorable CBO score for H.R. 3790 and still no companion bill in the Senate--some stakeholders wonder if the industry is better off focusing on regulatory channels.

"The obstacles to getting the bill advanced in a lame duck session are significant," said Seth Johnson, vice president of government affairs for Pride Mobility Products. "Our best opportunity may be through a regulatory delay of the program due to the letters from the economists and due to the overwhelming evidence that has mounted against the program. CMS has the authority to do that."

Republican takeover or status quo, the industry needs to continue nurturing its relationships with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, stakeholders say.

"We will be able to react and respond and take action regardless of the outcome of the elections," Gorski said.