Industry urges Obama administration to review NCB

Sunday, January 25, 2009

WASHINGTON - The Obama administration last week told federal agencies to review all pending and recently issued regulations. Industry stakeholders hope that includes the interim final rule for national competitive bidding.

The rule was published in the Federal Register on Jan. 16, four days before Obama took office.

AAHomecare sent a letter to Tom Daschle, Obama's nominee for secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

"We sincerely appreciate the new Administration's actions to suspend and review pending federal rules, as detailed in the White House Chief of Staff memorandum issued on January 20, 2009," the letter states. "We hope that you will exercise the option outlined in this memo and review and rescind this rule, which was rushed into implementation without regard for the negative impacts the program will have on seniors and homecare patients in America. As it stands, the 'competitive' bidding program will actually reduce competition, along with healthcare quality and access to care for patients and seniors."

Also last week, The VGM Group sent a letter to Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, asking him to contact Daschle and urge him to review the competitive bidding rule.

The Obama administration's letter to federal agencies stated that all department heads should consider:

"...extending for 60 days the effective date of regulations that have been published in the Federal Register but not yet taken effect...for the purpose of reviewing questions of law and policy raised by those regulations. Where such an extension is made for this purpose, you should immediately reopen the notice-and-comment period for 30 days to allow interested parties to provide comments about issues of law and policy raised by those rules." The memo states that for those rules that raise "substantial questions of law or policy, agencies should notify the [Office of Management and Budget] Director and take appropriate further action."

George W. Bush and Bill Clinton issued similar letters at the beginning of their presidencies.

Industry stakeholders weren't the only ones making noise last week.

Prior to Senate confirmation hearings for cabinet nominees, Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kan., met with Daschle to discuss healthcare issues. Roberts said partisan politics should not be employed with respect to home oxygen and cuts to home oxygen providers.

On Wednesday, Alice Rivlin, former head of the Congressional Budget Office and the White House Office of Management and Budget, encouraged Congress to immediately take steps to reduce the contributions to future deficits of Social Security and Medicare, and suggested that NCB was one such way to do so.

"Rivlin said that with all due respect it was 'ridiculous' of lawmakers to halt competitive bidding," reported Congressional Quarterly.