Industry appeals for ‘common sense’

Friday, May 27, 2016

WASHINGTON – With precious few Congressional days left to stave off an upcoming second round of Medicare reimbursement cuts, the sense of urgency at the AAHomecare Washington Legislative Conference on Wednesday was palpable.

John Letizia, the chairman of the board of the association, set the tone for the event in his opening remarks when he said of the event’s more than 200 scheduled Hill visits, “Good luck and let’s give them hell.”

Tom Ryan, president and CEO of the association, followed up later in the day with, “Be outraged. The standard of care is changing. We’ve got to get this done.”

HME providers face an additional cut of 25%, on average, in non-bid areas on July 1. A previous cut of 25% already went into effect on Jan. 1.

The stakes are high. A panel of rural providers discussed in grim terms the impact of the first round of cuts on their businesses and their ability to care for patients.

“I’ve always said (to the owner of my company), ‘I’ve got this,’” said Cathy Hamilton, CFO at Coastal Med Tech in Ellsworth, Maine. “I’ve no longer got this.”

Pat Naeger agreed.

“For the first time in my adult life, I’m scared as hell and I’m mad as hell,” said Naeger, president of Healthcare Equipment & Supply Co. in Perryville, Mo. “We’re teetering on the edge.”

Just in time, the industry now has on its side a new OIG report criticizing the bid program and 75 consumer groups. The event’s keynote speaker, Peter Thomas, a healthcare attorney who coordinates policy for the ITEM Coalition, told attendees that the group voted that week to authorize a letter supporting bills in the House of Representatives and Senate to push back the second round of cuts to at least Oct. 1, 2017.

“Take the letter and use it,” he said. “Tell (lawmakers), ‘It isn’t just us.’”

One lawmaker that doesn’t need convincing is Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C. She has connected the dots that reduced spending for DME will only result in increased spending for acute care.

“If you want to save money, keep patients out of the emergency room—it’s that basic,” said Ellmers, a former nurse, to a round of applause. “It’s common sense.”