Industry pulls out all stops

Thursday, April 30, 2009

With national competitive bidding hanging over their heads again, industry stakeholders participated in a flurry of lobbying activity during the April Congressional recess.

On April 6, the Pennsylvania Association of Medical Suppliers (PAMS) hosted an “HME Survival Summit” in Pittsburg that was attended by U.S. Reps. Jason Altmire, D-Pa., and Tim Murphy, R-Pa. The next day, The VGM Group’s Van Miller hosted a fundraiser at his home in Waterloo, Iowa, for U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.

“People are feisty, a lot more so than a year and a half ago when the first round of competitive bidding was going on,” said John Shirvinsky, executive director of PAMS. “This time around, we know this program can’t and won’t work, and that it has devastating results.”

The goal of the industry’s efforts: Eliminate or delay competitive bidding. CMS’s interim final rule was slated to go into effect April 18; the agency expects to re-launch the program this summer.

In April, industry stakeholders were also collecting signatures for a “Dear Colleague” letter written by Rep. Betty Sutton, D-Ohio. The letter asks CMS and the White House to rescind the competitive bidding rule. Sutton’s argument: The program will eliminate so many providers that senior citizens, especially those in rural areas, will have a hard time accessing equipment and services.

On April 6, Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., sent a letter to CMS, asking for, at minimum, a 90-day delay in the implementation of the competitive bidding rule.

“Congressional support is continuing to build throughout the country to rescind the rule and that is exactly what is necessary in order to stop this competitive bidding program from restarting,” said Seth Johnson, vice president of government affairs for Pride Mobility Products.

Leading up to the recess, on March 30, The Scooter Store hosted a town hall forum. It was attended by representatives from the offices of Reps. Kenny Marchant, R-Texas; Michael Burgess, R-Texas; Pete Sessions, R-Texas; and Sam Johnson, R-Texas; and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. Following the forum, The Scooter Store sent a letter signed by about two-dozen constituents to Cornyn, asking him to instruct CMS to rescind the competitive bidding rule.

“These forums with our elected officials can help to rescind the rule and either fix or kill this flawed program,” said Doug Harrison, chairman and CEO of The Scooter Store. “Our elected officials have thousands of issues in front of them and we can and we must help them understand that even though the name sounds good, the program is tragically and fatally flawed.”