Hobson-Tanner bill: 'Everything else doesn't matter'

Friday, March 31, 2006

WASHINGTON - Now that a 36-month cap on oxygen reimbursement is a done deal, various industry players have refocused their efforts on a bill that would lessen the blow of competitive bidding.
"Everything else doesn't matter," said John Gallagher, vice president of government relations for The VGM Group.
At press time in mid-March, 84 congressmen had co-signed H.R. 3559 or the Hobson-Tanner bill. The industry believes at least 200 co-signers are needed for Congress to act on the bill.
If the industry doesn't do anything about competitive bidding, sources said, there will be fewer providers around to worry about the oxygen cap and other reimbursement cuts. (Competitive bidding could eliminate up to 60% of providers, Gallagher said.)
Wayne Grau, who has been traveling the country lobbying for H.R. 3559, agreed that the stakes are high.
"This is a watershed year for us," said Grau, Pride Mobility's senior area manager for New England. "(Competitive bidding) is our No. 1 priority for 2006. We're pulling out all the stops."
While the industry is eyeing 200 co-signers, it needs about 110 to get a companion bill introduced in the Senate.Two senators on the Finance Committee are willing to write the legislation, Grau said.
Now the industry needs to make competitive bidding an "identifiable issue" for beneficiaries--something it did successfully in its grassroots efforts against the oxygen cap, sources said.
Grau urged providers to invite their local representatives to their businesses during the April recess to demonstrate oxygen equipment and introduce congressmen to beneficiaries. In Arizona, Mark Farmer has met with all but one of the state's congressmen. While two have put pen to paper, others have told him that they don't typically co-sign bills.
"There are just too many bills out there" for them to make a practice of it, said Farmer, president of the Arizona Medical Equipment Suppliers Association (AZMESA).
The silver lining: "When it comes to voting on this, they're telling us they'll vote in our favor," he said.