Industry pushes forward after disappointing vote
WASHINGTON – In a setback for the HME industry, the House of Representatives on March 27 passed a “doc-fix” bill that contains no amendments to fix the competitive bidding program.
“Am I frustrated? Absolutely,” said Tom Ryan, AAHomecare president and CEO. “But I remain confident that the support we’ve ginned up over the past several months (will continue).”
The temporary fix prevents a 24% cut in Medicare payments to physicians for one year. The Senate is scheduled to vote on a similar bill on Monday, March 31, and that too, is expected to be a slimmed-down bill with no HME-related amendments, says Ryan.
The House bill did have one positive element: a provision to delay the transition to ICD-10 for one year.
“That’s a reprieve for providers,” Ryan said.
If it’s any consolation, plenty of lawmakers and other groups are unhappy with the “doc fix” bill because it’s not a permanent fix, say stakeholders. That could mean the industry has another opportunity to get language included in another bill, they say.
“There are discussions about having another Medicare vehicle this year to address the remaining issues,” said Jay Witter, vice president of government affairs for AAHomecare. “We are coordinating with committee members to talk strategy for moving forward.”
One thing the industry would like to push forward in any future vehicle: an expansion of the power mobility device prior authorization demonstration project. At the behest of the Senate Finance committee, the industry has drafted language that would expand the demo from seven states to all 50 and would expand it to include all power mobility devices, including Group 3 wheelchairs.
“It’s believed it would save Medicare about $100 million and it’s something the industry supports,” said Seth Johnson, vice president of government affairs for Pride Mobility.
In the meantime, a congressional sign-on letter spearheaded by Reps. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., and Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, that urges CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner not to expand competitive bidding until the Office of Inspector General has completed an investigation has garnered 63 signatures.
Also high on AAHomecare’s priority list: getting audit legislation introduced. Language has been drafted and is in the approval process, and the association has lined up possible sponsors, Ryan said.