Industry prepares for competitive bid hearing

Thursday, September 9, 2010

WASHINGTON - AAHomecare will have a seat at the table when the health subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee holds a hearing on competitive bidding Sept. 15.

"Yes, we will have a witness who will speak on behalf of AAH and the Jersey Association of Medical Equipment Services," said Michael Reinemer, AAHomecare's vice president of communications and policy, on Friday. "We should have more details on Monday."

During the hearing, titled "Medicare's Competitive Bidding Program for Durable Medical Equipment: Implications for Quality, Cost and Access," a panel of representatives from the HME community and a panel of officials from CMS, OIG and GAO will square off, the former blasting the program and pressing to repeal it, and the latter defending it.

"We're going to have to do our best to beat the drum," said Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare. "We think we have a pretty good argument--beneficiary impact, job loss impact. We think we'd have a more compelling argument if we knew the identity of the bidders whose bids formed the basis for the payment amounts, but we don't have that."

It's still anyone's guess when CMS will release the names of the winning bidders. The agency's still saying some time in September, but stakeholders say they don't expect an announcement until later in the month.

The formal notice for the hearing states: "This hearing will examine the conception and implementation of the competitive bidding program, the implementation of the Round One Re-Bid and its potential effects on patients, providers and physicians."

AAHomecare encourages providers to attend the hearing, which will take place at 10 a.m. in Room 2123 of the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C.

Wanted: 'Homecare advocates'

In a bulletin to members last week, AAHomecare stated that it seeks "homecare advocates" in the campaign to "Save Homecare Now" from competitive bidding.

AAHomecare highlighted one such advocate: David McCausland, senior vice president of planning and government affairs for The ROHO Group. McCausland recently e-mailed numerous contacts to explain the threats of competitive bidding.

"I sincerely hope that I'm being 'Chicken Little,' believing that the sky is falling when it really isn't," he stated in the e-mail. "However, I've been in the home care industry for almost 30 years now and I can't recall a time when I saw the situation as dire as it is right now."

If you're interested in becoming a "homecare advocate," sign up through the Take Action Center at