Lawmakers to CMS: ‘Do the right thing’

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

WASHINGTON – Round 2 of competitive bidding may be the law of the land in 91 cities, but that’s not stopping lawmakers who oppose the program from pressuring CMS.

On June 27, Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., introduced S. 1265, a bill that would delay the implementation of Round 2 in Tennessee. The bill would also terminate contracts in all bid areas in the state, require CMS to re-bid those areas and impose a $10,000 penalty on contract suppliers that, going forward, provide incorrect information or are not licensed.

“We appreciate the senators’ work, but we would like to see that expanded to all Round 2 areas,” said Jay Witter, vice president of government affairs for AAHomecare.

Alexander and Corker introduced S. 1265 after CMS disqualified 30 contract suppliers for Tennessee because they didn’t meet state licensure requirements.

There are two other competitive bidding-related bills in Congress right now: H.R. 1717, a bill to replace the program with a market-pricing program (134 co-sponsors); and H.R. 2375, a bill to delay Round 2 until Dec. 31, 2013 (27 co-sponsors).

“It’s full steam ahead on our legislative strategy,” said Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare. “I expect now we will start hearing complaints from beneficiaries and that will help our cause on Capitol Hill.”

Also late last week, lawmakers delivered another round of letters to CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner outlining their concerns with the program—everything from the unresolved licensure issues in Maryland to lack of transparency surrounding financial standards.

Lawmakers who put pen to paper include Sens. Robert Casey, D-Pa.; Benjamin Cardin, D-Md.; Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.; Mike Crapo, R-Idaho; Pat Roberts, R-Kan.; John Thune, R-S.D.; Michael B. Enzi, R-Wyo.; John Cornyn, R-Texas; Richard Burr, R-N.C.; Roy Blunt, R-Mo.; Johnny Isakson, R-Ga.; Rob Portman, R-Ohio; and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.

Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., who introduced H.R. 2375, says he hopes having more senators engaged in the issue will create new pressure for the administration to “do the right thing” and delay the program.

“The administrator has the full authority to do so without congressional action,” he said in a statement to HME News. “Ignoring systemic flaws will only exacerbate the problems, as the program’s scope is about to be increased tenfold.”