Lawmakers hear case against bid program

Friday, March 15, 2013

WASHINGTON – Stakeholders say the biggest take-away from the industry’s Hill briefings on March 14 is the need to continue educating lawmakers and staffers on competitive bidding.

“Some offices are very well educated on the issue, but there are many more that have only a very basic understanding of it,” said Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare. “There were questions like, when will rural areas be included in the program?”

Speakers for the House and Senate briefings included Tyler Wilson of AAHomecare and John Shirvinsky of the Pennsylvania Association of Medical Suppliers.

Shortly after the Round 2 payment amounts were announced in January, CMS hosted briefings to talk up competitive bidding. This was the industry’s turn to give its side of the story, stakeholders say.

“It was a good opportunity to give our perspective,” Bachenheimer said. “But it wasn’t just our industry, there was also an economist (Dr. Brett Katzman from Kennesaw State University) and a consumer (Kelly Buckland from the National Council on Independent Living).”

The speakers also included Nancy Johnson, who was chairwoman of the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee in 2003 when the Medicare Modernization Act (MMA) was passed. It was the MMA that allowed competitive bidding to move forward, but not necessarily in the way that it has, stakeholders say.

“She did a good job talking about the original intent of Congress in terms of the structure of the program,” said Seth Johnson, vice president of government affairs for Pride Mobility Products.

Stakeholders encourage providers to continue educating lawmakers about the negative impact of competitive bidding. These efforts are starting to pay off, they say, but must continue.

“I can tell you that every office I go in to, they say, ‘Yes, we’re hearing about problems with the bid program,’’” Johnson said. “That’s something we weren’t hearing as strongly with past efforts.”