Hard-fought bid delay fails

Friday, July 15, 2016

WASHINGTON – Congress has failed to pass a bill that would delay a second round of Medicare reimbursement cuts for three months, until Sept. 30.

In the days before a long recess that kicked off July 15, the Senate had begun a “hotline process” to pass an amended version of H.R. 5210, which had already been passed by the House of Representatives earlier in the month.

As part of the process, the bill was introduced and distributed to all 100 offices of the Senate. If there were no objections within 24 hours, it would be considered passed. But somewhere along the line, the process failed.

“We were told last night that the hotlined bill was put on hold,” The VGM Group stated in a “Legislative Update” to its members on Friday. “We are still trying to confirm which senator placed the hold.”

The second round of reimbursement cuts—which, together with the first round of cuts that went into effect Jan. 1 represent, on average, a 51.1% decrease in reimbursement—went into effect July 1.

The Senate passed a bill, S. 2736, in late June that would have delayed the second round of cuts for one year, until July 1, 2017. But the pay-for for the bill—speeding up plans to match the federal portion of Medicaid allowables to bid-adjusted Medicare allowables from Jan. 1, 2019, to Oct. 1, 2018—was considered “toxic” by some lawmakers.

So, ultimately, the Senate ran with the House bill, which has a shorter delay but a non-HME specific pay-for, with plans to take up the issue again in September when it returns from its summer recess.

VGM says industry leaders will meet with their champions to determine action items for when Congress resumes business in September.

“We appreciate all your grassroots efforts the past 12 months,” VGM stated in the update. “The calls, personal visits and emails to your members of Congress did not go in vain. Both the Senate and House passed separate bills earlier this month. The fact that we had not one, but three, unanimous consent hotlined in the Senate is unheard of and an impressive feat! Unfortunately, if only takes on Senator to stop our efforts.”