Hobson pushes for rationality

Sunday, July 31, 2005

WASHINGTON -- An industry advocate on Capitol Hill in July introduced legislation that would "instill some rationality" into the national competitive bidding program slated to begin in the 10 largest MSAs in 2007.
Rep. David Hobson's, R-Ohio, bill would modify the MMA's vision of NCB, as well as the size of the pill small providers will have to swallow.
"These are rational tweaks," said Cara Bachenheimer, "Invacare's vice president of government relations, who worked closely with Rep. Hobson's office on the bill. "Obviously we would all love to see competitive bidding go away, but that's just not realistic in this legislative climate."
The provisions in the bill, all described as beneficiary protections or small supplier protections, would:
- Require CMS to implement quality standards at the same time as competitive bidding.
- Restore some of the appeal rights and due process protections stripped away by the MMA.
- Require CMS to exempt rural areas from competitive bidding.
- Require CMS to demonstrate that there is a likelihood of "significant savings," defined as at least 10%, before a product can be selected for competitive bidding.
- Subject the Program Oversight and Advisory Committee to the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which would ensure that the public had access to written records of the committee's proceedings.
- Require CMS to conduct formal comparability reports before a bid rate is applied to a non-bid area. The MMA gives CMS the ability to apply bid prices to non-bid areas in 2009.
- Allow any supplier that meets all quality standards and submits a bid below the current Medicare allowable to provide those items at the final bid rate.
"A lot of this is to make sure the bottom doesn't fall out in terms of protecting beneficiary access and to make sure there is still competition in bid areas," said Bachenheimer.
Now AAHomecare and other associations are encouraging providers to lobby their representatives to sign on to the legislation. Last year, H.R. 4491, a bill sponsored by Rep. Hobson that would have repealed 2005's DME reimbursement cuts, garnered 120 signatures. Bachenheimer said it's "the more the merrier" with this bill.