Industry continues push to keep HME provisions 'off the table'

Sunday, September 16, 2007

WASHINGTON - With a Sept. 30 deadline approaching, Congressional leaders will likely leave out Medicare provisions from their package to extend the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). But--and it's a big but--the home medical equipment industry isn't out of the woods, industry sources warn.

Last week, key members of the House of Representatives and the Senate continued to negotiate a SCHIP package. Industry sources say one of two scenarios will likely occur, neither of which would include provisions to reduce the cap on Medicare oxygen reimbursement to 18 months and eliminate the first-month purchase option for power wheelchairs: They will approve a short-term extension of the program or they will approve the Senate's $35 billion stand-alone package.

One industry source said leaders were "95% there" toward going with the Senate package.

With SCHIP under their belt, however, legislators will likely continue attempts to reduce a 10% cut in physician reimbursement scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1 by making cuts elsewhere in the Medicare program. HME provisions will again be up for grabs, industry sources say.

Providers must continue to "weigh in" with legislators on the harmful affects of reducing the oxygen cap and eliminating the first-month purchase option for power wheelchairs, said Seth Johnson, vice president of government affairs for Pride Mobility Products.

"We'll be better of if we get them to take these provisions off the table early in the process," Johnson said. "We don't want them hanging out there, when Congress is throwing together an omnibus bill at 2 a.m. the last day of the session."