H.R. 3559: 'We have work to do'

Friday, September 30, 2005

WASHINGTON - The first week after their August recess, Rep. David Hobson, R-Ohio, and Rep. John Tanner, D-Tenn., signed on 14 of their colleagues for H.R. 3559, a bill that would lessen the blow dealt by national competitive bidding.
"To have that many co-signers in the couple of days after they're coming back is encouraging," said Karyn Estrella, chairwoman of AAHomecare's state leader's council. "But clearly, we have work to do."
AAHomecare, state associations and other member groups have clamored to mobilize the industry's grassroots lobbying effort for the Hobson-Tanner bill. The bill, which was introduced in late July, needs a groundswell of cosigners to get attached to a "moving piece of legislation," said Mike Reinemer, spokesman for AAHomecare.
The industry's goal is 200 cosigners, which would surpass the 170 signers for last year's H.R. 4491. It had a short-term goal of 80 by mid-September, but the bill may be slow to get legs not only because of timing but also because Hurricane Katrina means legislators have bigger fish to fry, industry sources said.
AAHomecare is keeping tabs on which legislators have been contacted so they can make follow-up calls, Reinemer said.
At the grassroots level, AAHomecare and the state leader's council put together talking points and sample letters for providers to use in the process. Some suppliers have also hosted site visits for representatives at their businesses, Reinemer said (See story on previous page).
The Hobson-Tanner bill is aimed at revising some of the provisions in the MMA on competitive bidding, but it would not rescind the program completely. Its biggest change would instead allow any qualified provider who participated in the bid process to do business at the winning bid's price.
"It's a compromise," said Asela Cuervo, an industry attorney. "It's not going to be 100% competitive bidding, as some in Congress want. It's going to protect two constituencies, the beneficiaries by giving them more choice and small businesses who are voters as well."
Sara Perkins, the press secretary for Rep. Hobson, said the representatives continue to reach out to their colleagues to build support.
The other provisions of H.R. 3559, 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 has 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.