Industry readies to jump back in
WASHINGTON – When lawmakers return to work Sept. 6, industry stakeholders plan to bombard them with concrete examples of how Medicare reimbursement cuts are negatively impacting HME providers and beneficiaries.
“We have to be very aggressive gathering these anecdotes, so we have a package of ammunition,” said Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare. “For us to get something done in September, they’ve got to see a tangible impact.”
Adding to that sense of urgency: While Congress is technically in session until Sept. 30, the reality is that most workweeks during the month are only Tuesday through Thursday, says Bachenheimer.
After September, lawmakers return home until after the Nov. 8 election. At that point, all bets may be off.
“If we lose the window in September, nobody knows if there will be a lame duck opportunity,” said Tom Ryan, president and CEO of AAHomecare. “The elections are a big distraction for lawmakers and the tone of this election cycle has been interesting to say the least. That makes dealing with leadership challenging, as well.”
AAHomecare has been meeting with industry champions and key committee members throughout the summer. The goal: Create a package that both chambers will pass. Earlier this year, the Senate passed S. 2736, which would have delayed the July 1 cuts in non-bid areas for one year, but it failed to pass an amended version of H.R. 5210, which would have delayed the cuts for three months and ended up being the best bill with a chance at passing.
The sticking point was—and remains—the pay-for, say stakeholders.
“We are working with folks to find an alternative, and that determines the length of relief we can get,” said Bachenheimer.
Ryan said he hears every day from providers that they are laying off staff or closing their doors. The association has hired DCI Group, a public relations firm, to amplify those stories. Ryan asks that all providers—not just AAHomecare members—share their stories.
“We’re encouraged by the breadth of contacts DCI has in health care and the congressional reporting sector,” he said. “As these stories proliferate, we can gain some real traction.”