Industry gets assurance that bid relief is forthcoming

Friday, September 30, 2016

WASHINGTON – HME stakeholders have House Speaker Paul Ryan’s word that Congress will take up legislation that would retroactively delay a recent reimbursement cut in non-competitive bidding areas in a lame-duck session after the elections.

“We’ve had some of our folks in leadership talk to Ryan directly and he has said that he’s aware of the issue,” said Jay Witter, senior vice president of public policy for AAHomecare. “He said, ‘We’ll take care of it in the lame-duck session.’ That’s a good assurance that we haven’t had in the past that the issue will be addressed.”

Stakeholders were working toward passing legislation by Sept. 30, before Congress recessed for the upcoming elections, but lawmakers were consumed that week with passing a spending bill to prevent a government shutdown.

Because that spending bill is a stop-gap measure that funds the government only through Dec. 9, stakeholders know lawmakers will take up legislation when they return that could serve as a potential vehicle for their legislation.

“There will be a large omnibus package,” said Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare. “That’s where we’re focusing.”

Stakeholders realize, however, that that’s where a lot of specialty interests will be focusing.

“There are a lot of people who are hoping and praying to get in there,” Bachenheimer said.

Stakeholders are relying on their champions in Congress to hammer out the details of their legislation, and navigate and negotiate the best way forward. The length of the delay and the corresponding pay-for are still in flux.

“The pay-for continues to be a concern,” said Tom Ryan, president and CEO of AAHomecare. “The industry has nothing left to give. Our champions understand this, and they’re committed to finding one.”

While the industry’s champions are doing much of the heavy lifting, stakeholders must keep up the noise level on why the bid program is flawed, and how it’s wreaking havoc on small businesses and impacting access to home medical equipment for Medicare beneficiaries.

“We know the troops are weary, but we can’t give up now,” Ryan said. “We’re almost there.”

Recent efforts to increase the number of boots-on-the-ground stories on the impact of the bid program, especially the reimbursement cuts that went into effect in non-bid areas on Jan. 1 and July 1, are raising eyebrows among lawmakers, stakeholders say.

“The Nantucket story, the Danville, Ill., story—lawmakers are coming to us about them,” Witter said. “Our message is getting through; we need to continue that. We need to arm our champions with ammo that, unlike CMS would have them believe, there is something going on here.”