Industry tells Congress, 'We have a solution'
WASHINGTON – The HME industry is not afraid of competitive bidding—as long as it's done right, stakeholders told lawmakers at a hearing last week in which they touted the market pricing program.
"We have an alternative; we have a solution to the problem," said Joel Marx, AAHomecare chairman and chairman of Medical Service Company in Cleveland. "We believe it saves the same amount of money, makes it fair to providers, and doesn't threaten beneficiary access."
Marx was one of several speakers at Wednesday's hearing before the Subcommittee on Health of the House Ways and Means Committee. Also testifying: Laurence Wilson, director of CMS's Chronic Care Policy Group; Kathleen King from the Government Accountability Office; Wayne Sale, NAIMES chairman; Dino Martis, president of Ablecare Medical in Cincinnati, a contract supplier; and Alfred J. Chiplin, Jr., from the Center for Medicare Advocacy.
While the industry has talked up MPP for the last several months, last week's hearing marked the first time the industry was able to give MPP a "public airing," said Seth Johnson.
"In the past, we didn't have the alternative locked down like we do today," said Johnson, vice president of government affairs for Pride Mobility. "My hope is that the public airing of the issues surrounding the current program and review of MPP that took place will lead to a CBO score in the near term and put the industry in a much better position to advance it later this year."
When asked by lawmakers about MPP as an alternative to competitive bidding, Wilson said, "We believe it will result in universal failure," but didn't elaborate why.
"I think that shows that we need to make sure that CMS understands key issues related to MPP," said Walt Gorski, vice president of government affairs for AAHomecare. "I just don’t think they are that interested in doing that. When you shut off to others' perspectives, I think that's when mistakes get made."
Other key points made during the 2.5 hours of testimony included competitive bidding's impact on the market and the difficulties of preparing a bid in March 2012 for what you will be paid in 2016.
"I think we showed them some things they had not seen before and opened their eyes wider to the danger of CMS's version of competitive bidding," said Sale.
While the industry scored some points, last week's hearing was just a step forward in a long march, said Cara Bachenheimer.
"We've been told all along that this needs to go through the regular (process)," said Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare. "We expect a second hearing, on the Energy and Commerce side, in a month or so. It's never going to be a slam dunk but we need to go through this."
Call to action
WASHINGTON – Industry stakeholders are asking providers to contact them with the names of any companies that they believe may have closed as a result of competitive bidding. The move is in response to a request made by Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio, during Wednesday's hearing, who asked AAHomecare for such a list. Please contact AAHomecare: jayw@aahomecare, or The VGM Group: firstname.lastname@example.org or Brittany Terrell email@example.com at 800-642-6065.