Fear factor: Will lawmakers target HME as part of Medicare cuts?

Thursday, June 30, 2011

WASHINGTON - So far, there's no word on whether Medicare spending for HME is part of heated discussions on Capitol Hill about raising the debt ceiling and cutting costs, say industry stakeholders.

"It's all closed door discussions," said Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare. "The problem is, they are looking for money and everything is potentially on the table. We just don't know anything at this point."

In a speech June 29, President Obama said Medicare and Medicaid cuts could be part of a deal to raise the debt ceiling. Also last week, Inside Health Policy reported that Medicaid cuts are on the table, including capping durable medical equipment payments at competitive bidding rates.

Just because nobody knows for sure what will happen, doesn't mean HME providers should sit back and wait, says Walt Gorski.

"HME suppliers should be on high alert and reaching out to members," said Gorski, vice president of government relations for AAHomecare. "The HME community has taken a number of very significant cuts over the past five or seven years and additional cuts will threaten the ability of providers to keep people in their homes."

With lawmakers focused on the debt ceiling, it will be difficult to grab their attention on industry issues like competitive bidding, stakeholders admit, but it's important to push on. In Chicago last week, members of the Illinois Association for Medical Equipment Services called on eight congressmen--back home for recess--to seek support for H.R. 1041.

"We've got to keep up the momentum on H.R. 1041 so we can get the Senate to pick it up," said John Gallagher, vice president of government relations for The VGM Group, who attended the meetings. "Right now, they are focused on the debt ceiling, but that will end between now and August, and then lawmakers will go on recess and start campaigning. That's our time to get in front of all those folks."