The great HME escape

Thursday, January 31, 2008

WASHINGTON - The industry breathed a sigh of relief in mid-December when a new Medicare bill contained no reimbursement cuts for home medical equipment. But it's going to take a ton of hard work to continue that winning streak in 2008.
"This is a delay, an intermission," said Cara Bachenheimer, Invacare's senior vice president of government relations. "It does give us some time, but this thing is going to start up real quick in 2008."
The Senate passed S.2499 unanimously Dec. 19. The House voted 411 to 3 in favor of the bill Dec. 20. President Bush signed it into law Dec. 29.
Originally, lawmakers had discussed eliminating the first-month purchase option for power wheelchairs and cutting reimbursement for stationary oxygen concentrators by 40%. Savings from those cuts would have been used to help eliminate a 10.1% reimbursement cut for doctors scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2008. Instead, lawmakers opted for a non-controversial, scaled-back bill that delayed the physician cut for six months, until June 30, 2008.
If Congress wants to extend the delay beyond that date--as physicians will most likely lobby for--lawmakers will have to find money to do that. That means power wheelchair and oxygen cuts could be back on the table in 2008.
"This shows that we can make a difference, and I would encourage all of those who are involved to talk to five of their friends and encourage them to become involved," said Walt Gorski, AAHomecare's vice president of government relations. "We'll have to redouble or triple our efforts (in 2008)."