House moves full steam ahead to slow cuts

Friday, May 13, 2016

WASHINGTON – A bill introduced in the House of Representatives last week that would delay an upcoming second round of Medicare reimbursement cuts has hit the ground running. 

H.R. 5210, introduced May 12 by Reps. Tom Price, R-Ga., Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, and Peter Welch, D-Vt., has 40 original co-sponsors.

“It sends a great message,” said John Gallagher, vice president of government relations for The VGM Group. “Most of them are on the Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means committees. But we still need to get folks energized to move it.”

Like its sister bill in the Senate, The Patient Access to Durable Medical Equipment (PADME) Act of 2016 would push back the second cut in non-bid areas from July 1, 2016 to Oct. 1, 2017. The only difference between the two bills is the “pay-for.”

While the Senate bill has a pay-for that would speed up plans to limit federal Medicaid reimbursement for DME to the Medicare payment rates from Jan. 1, 2019, to Oct. 1, 2018, the House bill has a “placeholder pay-for” to give committees time to find an alternative approach.

“On the House side, there were some concerns with Rep.Fred Upton, R-Mich., chairmanof the House Energy and Commerce Committee,” said Jay Witter,senior vice president of government relations for AAHomecare. “He’s focused on the 21st Century Cures Act, and is trying to control any pay-fors that may impact that legislation. But everyone agrees with the underlying policy that those cuts should be delayed.”

With time ticking down, legislators plan to pass the bills by unanimous consent, the same way they passed a bill to stave off CMS's plan to apply competitive bid pricing to accessories for complex rehab power wheelchairs in 2015.

“Normally you want to attach bills to a larger bill, but there really is no moving bill before July 1,” said Witter. “So the Senate Finance Committee designed this one to be non-controversial, so it can move quickly.”

Ideally, stakeholders would like to see the bills passed in the next two weeks.

“I know our champions want to pass it sooner rather than later to make sure CMS doesn’t have any excuse not to implement it,” said Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare. “The objective is not to do it June 30; the objective is to do it in advance of that.”