Industry's strategy: Strike while the iron is hot

Saturday, February 27, 2010

WASHINGTON - AAHomecare's Washington Legislative Conference "could not have come at a better time," says Walt Gorski, the association's vice president of government affairs.

As part of the March 1-3 conference, HME providers will hit Capitol Hill on Wednesday, just days after President Barack Obama held a healthcare reform summit with leading members of Congress. Providers plan to give those members and others an earful about the provisions that have been included in various healthcare reform packages that would negatively impact HME providers and their patients.

"All these issues are extremely alive right now," said Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare.

Obama held the summit to kick start healthcare reform discussions. In January, those discussions stalled after Republican Scott Brown took over the late Democrat Edward Kennedy's U.S. Senate seat, leaving Democrats one vote short of the 60 necessary to push through their package without Republican support.

Prior to the summit, Obama released a brief healthcare reform proposal that appeared to be based on an earlier Senate package, which included provisions like accelerating Round 2 of competitive bidding and imposing a tax on medical devices.

"We've heard conflicting things," Bachenheimer said. "We've heard that the device tax will be based on the House's package and we've also heard that it will be based on the Senate's package. Until we see something in black and white, we can't really speculate."

Although no one expected Democrats and Republicans to leave last week's healthcare summit unified, industry stakeholders expect discussions to pick back up in earnest.

"I do believe something will have to pass this year," Gorski said. "It's just unclear whether it will a comprehensive bill, along the lines of what Obama has proposed--which he would have to go alone on with Democrats--or smaller reform bills."