Industry readies to jump back in

Friday, September 2, 2016

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.”


As a consultant to the industry I'm mainly on the outside looking in.  The industry's efforts to repeal CB, delay CB, change CB, etc. over this time has been useless.  The only delay that ever went into effect was with Round 1, a do-over, which ended up hurting the industry significantly more than helping it.  Even at the beginning, when the industry had experts weighing in on how flawed the process was (suicide bids, not holding companies to their bids, etc.), which it surely is to anyone other than CMS, the industry got nowhere with Congress or CMS.  CB has been a tradgedy on so many levels, yet there doesn't seem to be any solid understanding of this by Congress, along with their unwillingness to not "rock the boat". 

It seems to me that these efforts will just continue to be in vain, as CMS simply doesn't care what the effect is on providers.  Only when beneficiaries die due to lack of product availability as a result of the CB cuts will someone possibly start to listen.  The press needs to be significantly more involved.  I recall either a NBC or 60 minutes piece on power wheelchairs a number of years ago which appeared to have a definite impact.  Why not have the PR people, or whoever, solicit the press with solid stories of American entrepreneurialism being crushed, patients cut off from access to products and at times having to have hospital stays, along with the high costs, the vast number of people losing their jobs due to company closures, etc.  The press is our most powerful ally.

Only when the press is involved will Congress stand up and listen.  This is an American tragedy on many levels, and a perfect story for a show like 60 minutes.  Stop wasting time with numerous bills before Congress on CB (name me ONE win in this fight) and start using the fourth estate.  Works just about every time.