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Industry agenda heats up: 'It’s an easy story to tell’

Industry agenda heats up: 'It’s an easy story to tell’

Tom RyanWASHINGTON – Industry stakeholders are speeding up the drum beat on the impact of changed cost structures and supply chain issues on HME providers, says Tom Ryan, president and CEO of AAHomecare. 

“We need providers to reach out to their members and talk about how they’ve shined throughout the pandemic – the role they’ve played – and yet continue to take reimbursement rates from five years ago,” he said. “It’s an easy story to tell, and it’s one that’s going to resonate.” 

AAHomecare aims to have a sign-on letter ready to circulate during its upcoming Virtual Legislative Conference on Sept. 29, urging Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-Lasure to release a final rule that would make permanent a 50-50 blended reimbursement rate in rural areas. 

Right now, the blended reimbursement is only guaranteed throughout the public health emergency. 

“Members of Congress want to see the final rule, so the messaging is to urge CMS to make adjustments and signing the letter would carry that message,” he said. 

The conference will also give HME providers a chance to prime the pump on legislative language to provide relief in those areas if CMS doesn’t act.  

“We’re still getting some pushback from the committees of jurisdiction,” Ryan said. “It’s not that we’re not going to get there, but we have to go through the steps.” 

The industry’s need for relief is taking on greater urgency in the face of several headwinds, including the expiration in January of a moratorium on 2% sequester cuts, which have been waived during the public health emergency. That cut, if it goes into effect, could come on top of another 4% cut in 2022, required as a “pay for” for the $1.9 trillion stimulus package passed in March. 

“You’re looking at 6%, not just on DME but all health care,” said Ryan. “I’m optimistic there will be enough push back – you can’t do this during a pandemic.” 

One concern that providers can probably consider off the table for the foreseeable future: Competitive bidding, which CMS does not have on its priority list, says Ryan. 

“We don’t understand the variances (that came up in the last round of bidding); they don’t understand the variances,” he said. “They’ve asked to tell them if we have any ideas for improvements to the program. My gut tells me it’s unlikely to proceed in 2024.”


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