House committees approve comp. bidding

Sunday, June 30, 2002

WASHINGTON - Two key House committees passed versions of a Medicare reform bill last month that included competitive bidding for durable medical equipment. It's now all but certain that competitive bidding will be in the bill that the U.S. House of Representatives votes on.

The House Ways and Means Committee passed the bill June 19, and the House energy and Commerce Committee passed it June 21.

"I hope our members are yelling and screaming, but the fact is it's in both bills. I'm 99% certain it will be in the final House bill," said AAHomecare CEO Tom Connaughton. "Now we have to shift to the Senate."

The Senate will now take up the issue of Medicare reform, and the industry must lobby and educate senators on why competitive bidding is a bad idea, Con-naughton said.

"That's how I'm going to spend my summer, and I hope a considerable number of our members will spend time educating people," he said.

With influential Republicans supporting competitive bidding, derailing it at the Republican-controlled House level was tough.

AAHomecare expects the industry to have a better shot at making its case in the Senate because there are fewer lawmakers to lobby. There also seems to be less support for competitive bidding in the Senate than in the House, Con-naughton said.

"This thing ain't over," he said.

Eventually, however, the House and Senate will have to negotiate a final bill before sending it to President Bush. It's up to the industry to make sure the Senate doesn't include competitive bidding in its bill, and then make sure that senators hold tough when negotiating with House leaders, Connaughton said. HME