Industry keeps pressure on to repeal competitive bidding

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

WASHINGTON - It was relatively quiet in Washington last week, but with winning amounts expected to be announced for competitive bidding this month, the race continues to repeal the program, stakeholders say.

"CMS is marching forward so it's our job to make sure this is on the radar screen," said Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare.

Currently, H.R. 3790 has 243 co-sponsors, but the industry is still looking for a senate champion to sponsor a companion bill.

Stakeholders urged providers to reach out to their lawmakers while they are back in their home districts this week. (See talking points below.)

"We want to make sure providers are contacting their senators and making sure they are aware of us," said John Gallagher, vice president of government relations for The VGM Group.

One sticking point: H.R. 3790 received a preliminary score of $9.6 billion over 10 years from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The industry has been working to make it budget neutral again.

Meanwhile, with healthcare reform behind it, Congress has turned its attention to the country's high unemployment rate. That's a message providers can use to drive home the need to repeal competitive bidding, said Gallagher.

"This is all about jobs, jobs, jobs," he said. "Competitive bidding is a death knell to providers nationwide."

VGM last week sent out a handout outlining projected job losses in the areas that competitive bidding will affect. Providers can use the handout to pitch story ideas to their local media, said Gallagher.

"If there was a car manufacturer that lost 300 jobs, that would be page 1 news," he said. "Make it local. No congressman wants to see jobs lost."

Stakeholders: Join the Memorial Day charge against competitive bidding

YARMOUTH, Maine - With lawmakers home for their annual Memorial Day recess (May 30-June 6), industry leaders are encouraging providers to mount an all-out effort to build support for H.R. 3790.

This will be the last real opportunity for providers to have quality time with representatives before the election in November. After the Memorial break, priorities will be set for the remainder of the session of the 111th Congress, say industry leaders.

AAHomecare, VGM, The MED Group, NAIMES, AMEPA, CSIHME and other national and state groups are working together on this effort.

AAH urges providers to use the following "talking points" when discussing the bill:

To Representatives not currently cosponsoring H.R. 3790:

-- This "competitive" bidding program restricts access and choice for HME items and services.

-- It will trigger a race to the bottom in terms of quality and less expensive items will be provided to patients. With a loss of providers, expedient deliveries of items and services will be eliminated and Medicare costs will increase.

-- The bid program is anti-competitive and reduces the number of competitors.  During Round One, 80 to 90 percent of HME service providers would have been barred from the Medicare program.  

-- The bidding program will increase Medicare costs by disrupting the continuum and coordination of care between doctors, discharge planners, patients, and HME providers. In turn, it will lead to longer, more expensive hospital stays and more physician office visits, nursing home admissions, and emergency room visits.

-- We want to assure you that the home medical equipment sector will have an appropriate offset as part of any legislation that may move through Congress. The Congressional Budget Office is working through this issue now.  And please remember, the reasons for enacting competitive bidding in 2003 have already been achieved: Congress has made significant cuts to Medicare's durable medical equipment reimbursement rates in recent years. Additionally, new quality standards and new mandatory accreditation and surety bond requirements in Medicare took effect last year.

To representatives already signed on to H.R. 3790:

"I appreciate your support of H.R. 3790, the bill to eliminate the "competitive" bidding program and preserve access to homecare. I urge you now to help us work toward final passage of this bill to stop the short-sighted program by reaching out to House leadership and asking them to take action on H.R. 3790 immediately following the Memorial Day recess.  Time is critical. CMS is moving forward quickly with this program and bid rates in initial areas are scheduled to be implemented on January 1, 2011. 

"I want to assure you that the home medical equipment sector will have an appropriate offset as part of any legislation that may move through Congress. The Congressional Budget Office is working through this issue now.  And please remember, the reasons for enacting competitive bidding in 2003 have already been achieved: Congress has made significant cuts to Medicare's durable medical equipment reimbursement rates in recent years. Additionally, new quality standards and new mandatory accreditation and surety bond requirements in Medicare took effect last year."

Also, providers should urge House leadership to include H.R. 3790 in an appropriate legislative vehicle that is moving on the House floor.

For Democratic offices, leadership includes House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Ways and Means Committee Chair Sander Levin, and Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Henry Waxman.

For Republican offices, leadership includes Minority Leader John Boehner, Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Dave Camp, and Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Joe Barton.

 

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