Industry legislation gets fresh blood

Sunday, November 25, 2007

WASHINGTON - Just before Congress broke for Thanksgiving recess, several industry bills picked up new co-sponsors, including a few that could have been the result of an industry-wide call-in.

The Tanner-Hobson Bill, H.R 1845, made the biggest leap with four lawmakers signing on: Reps. Hank Johnson, D-Ga.; Lee Terry, R-Neb.; John Carter, R-Texas; and Ralph Hall, D-Texas. The bill, which would soften the blow of national competitive bidding, now has 147 co-sponsors.

"Lee Terry has been worked on for quite some time," said Rose Schafhauser, executive director of the Midwest Association for Medical Equipment Services (MAMES). "Our Nebraska members this year have done a really good job staying on top, constantly writing notes and e-mails, and leaving messages."

Tanner-Hobson's companion bill, S. 1428, picked up Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., for a total of 14 co-sponsors.

H.R. 621, which would repeal the 36-month cap on Medicare oxygen reimbursement, now has 129 co-sponsors, with the addition of Reps. James McGovern, D-Mass.; Ralph Hall, D-Texas; and Christopher Carney, D-Pa. Its companion bill, S. 1484, added Sen. John Tester, D-Mont., for a total of eight co-sponsors.

Several of the new co-sponsors signed on during or after The VGM Group's "Enough is Enough: Shut Down the Switchboard" day Nov. 14. The goal was to get 50,000 people to call lawmakers in Washington, D.C., to raise awareness of the industry and urge them to co-sponsor bills.

"It's hard to say what finally turns that switch," said Schafhauser. "I think when they receive several messages in one day, it's in their minds, and they understand the issue better."

VGM reported 33,000 hits to the call-in's Web site and 8,167 phone calls to the switchboard.

Providers called from 47 states. Ohio led the states with 1,086 calls, followed by Iowa with 779; Virginia, 559; California, 544; Massachusetts, 516; Florida, 477; Texas, 475; and Utah, 393, which had the highest per capita participation, according to VGM.