Legislative conference: Flurry of activity on competitive bidding

Friday, May 24, 2013

WASHINGTON – Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., told attendees at AAHomecare’s Washington Legislative Conference last week that he plans to introduce legislation seeking a delay in Round 2 of competitive bidding.

The move is necessary in light of licensing issues in multiple bid areas, he said.

“The awarding of bids to unlicensed suppliers is (an issue) truly in need of a subcommittee hearing and I plan to ask for that,” Thompson told attendees. “We will need people to go to the floor to elevate this.”

Licensure requirements were a hot-button issue at the conference and even lawmakers have taken up the rally cry. Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., met with CMS officials May 21 to discuss the problem.

Members of the Tennessee delegation have also sent a letter to CMS Acting Administrator Marilyn Tavenner on May 20 voicing their concerns.

“We saw how blatantly CMS is violating its own rules,” Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., told attendees.

With the July 1start date of Round 2 of competitive bidding right around the corner, the HME industry needs to shift into crisis mode, say stakeholders.

“We have a calamity on our hands,” Tom Ryan, founder and CEO of Farmingdale, N.Y.-based Homecare Concepts, told attendees. “Nearly 80% of good businesses will be excluded from providing (Medicare). There is no room for apathy in this industry any more.”

The approximately 260 attendees had two tasks during their 300 visits on Capitol Hill: Ask lawmakers to support H.R. 1717, a bill to replace competitive bidding with a market-pricing program (MPP), and to support the delay.

“It’s time to have some candid conversations about H.R. 1717,” Price told attendees. “Tell your members it’s bipartisan, it doesn’t cost any more money. (Tell them) if you don’t like the way we’ve solved it, tell us what you want us to do.”

Price introduced H.R. 1717 on April 24. It currently has 96 co-sponsors, with more expected in the wake of the conference.

As far as getting MPP legislation introduced in the Senate, it would likely happen as part of a larger bill in the fall when lawmakers take up the debt limit or the physician payment cuts, rather than as a standalone bill.

“They aren't going to take MPP and pass it on its own,” Dean Rosen with Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti, a lobbying firm, told attendees. “The Senate Democrats are extremely gun shy about health care because they don’t want to provide any opportunity for Republicans to attack the Affordable Care Act.”

Despite everything, providers remain both resolute and upbeat.

“Somehow or another, I still believe that Round 2 will be at least delayed,” said attendee Scott Soderquist, president of Manchester, N.H.-based Rehab Equipment Associates. “I just can’t see how it can’t.”