Hearing drums up support for home infusion, diabetes bills

Friday, July 21, 2017

WASHINGTON – Bills related to home infusion and diabetes supplies were front and center during a hearing last week by the Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Health in the House of Representatives.

At the July 20 hearing, lawmakers heard testimony on 11 bills, including a bill that would ensure Medicare beneficiaries have access to their preferred brand of diabetes supplies, and a bill that would create a temporary transitional payment for home infusion drugs to close a gap created by the 21st Century Cures Act.

“H.R. 3163, the Medicare Part B Home Infusion Services Temporary Transitional Payment Act, is bill worthy of our support,” said Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas. “The timing and payment changes for drugs and services do not line up, potentially resulting in reduced patient access. This bill solves the problem by providing a temporary bridge from 2019 to 2021, so patients don’t lose access to the care they need.”

The Cures Act requires Medicare to pay for services associated with providing Part B home infusion drugs, but not until 2021. Meanwhile, a second provision cut payments for those drugs on Jan. 1.

Other payers already recognize the value of home infusion services, testified Varner Richards, CEO of IntraMed Plus and a board chair for the National Home Infusion Association.

“Commercial insurers, Medicaid programs, and many Medicare Advantage health plans currently recognize that infusion therapy delivered at home is a cost-effective, low risk, and clinically effective treatment option,” he said. “The community supports an explicit payment for home infusion clinical services that are required to ensure effective patient care.”

Christel Aprigliano, CEO of the Diabetes Patient Advocacy Coalition, urged lawmakers to support “The Protecting Access to Diabetes Supplies Act,” H.R. 3271, which seeks to make improvements to the mail-order program for diabetes supplies. While on the surface, the program saves beneficiaries out-of-pocket costs, it comes at a high cost in terms of complications down the road, she says.

“We are on the cusp of a severe health crisis,” said Aprigliano. “Debilitating complications are common among people with mismanaged diabetes and the Medicare program bears much of this burden. The program may be hindering the ability to achieve diabetes control.”

Introduced July 17 by Reps. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., Susan Brooks, R-Ind., and Tom Reed, R-N.Y., H.R. 3271 would strengthen protections requiring mail-order contract suppliers to include at least 50% of the types of testing supplies that were available before the implementation of the program. It would also prevent suppliers from encouraging beneficiaries to switch brands. 

“(This bill) would prevent suppliers from coercing beneficiaries into changing their choice of test strips and make it easier for patients to switch and receive different testing supplies if they want to,” said Green. “I have co-sponsored this legislation in the past and will continue to support it.”

Other bills discussed at the hearing dealt with issues like furthering access to stroke telemedicine services, removing a rental cap for speech generating devices, and increasing civil and criminal monetary penalties and fines for fraud and abuse.

“Each of these policies exemplifies our shared commitment to strengthening the Medicare program for our current beneficiaries and for future generations,” said Rep. Michael Burgess, chairman, in opening the hearing.