Industry stakeholders consider NCB repeal

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

WASHINGTON - A wide array of healthcare stakeholders, including AAHomecare, has formed a new coalition to explore repealing national competitive bidding, which CMS plans to kick off this year.
"With new leadership in Congress, we have sort of a blank slate," said Michael Reinemer, AAHomecare's vice president of communications and policy. "We're working to find out what our possibilities are."
Still in its early stages, the Coalition to Ensure Beneficiary Access has had only a few meetings, Reinemer said. Among those involved so far: the Health Industry Distributors Association, the National Association for the Support of Long Term Care and several HME manufacturers, including Invacare.
The coalition also seeks support from patient and provider groups.
"We're encouraged to see such a broad base coming together to support the same goal," said Cara Bachenheimer, vice president of government relations for Invacare.
To repeal competitive bidding, which was enacted into law as part of the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, the coalition needs to get a bill introduced and passed in Congress.
"Repealing competitive bidding has always been our ultimate goal," Bachenheimer said. "Whether that's realistic or not--at this point, it's premature. We have fallback positions, but first we need to make an assessment of whether we can win or lose at this."
In its efforts, the coalition plans to focus on five principles:
Accreditation and quality standards are critically important and a positive step forward
The Medicare program has already taken necessary steps to combat fraud and abuse, and to ensure that beneficiaries have access to high-quality DME through these initiatives.
Beneficiaries lose under competitive bidding
The administrative process of bidding within select regions for select products will result in reduced availability of products to individuals in certain areas of the country. If fully implemented, beneficiaries would be the ultimate losers.
Competitive bidding will create a bureaucracy
These expenses may negate any potential savings.
Small businesses will be harmed
Small businesses won't be as price-competitive as larger companies. CMS also stated that as few as two suppliers could be selected for a product category in a competitive bid area, which would result in further erosion of the small business community.
There is a better approach to competitive bidding
The coalition will pursue an approach that secures savings, foregoes a new federal bureaucracy, and protects beneficiaries and small businesses.