Legislative line items: First-month purchase option and competitive bidding

Thursday, December 2, 2010

WASHINGTON - It looks like the HME industry has one more shot at delaying the elimination of the first-month purchase option for standard power wheelchairs. Between now and the end of the year, lawmakers are expected to work on a one-year delay to the 23% cut to physician payments scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1. That gives the industry a vehicle to delay the elimination of the purchase option for one year in exchange for a 1% reduction in the consumer price index-urban scale (CPI-U). "We're doing everything we can to make sure we're part of the more comprehensive doc fix package," said Seth Johnson, vice president of government affairs for Pride Mobility Products. "We're continuing to get positive feedback from members of the House and Senate, who are supportive of including the delay." The House and Senate voted recently to push the implementation date for the cut to physician payments from Dec. 1 to Jan. 1, giving lawmakers time to find a more long-term solution.

CMS on competitive bidding: Talk to the hand

CMS officials remain unfazed by the latest criticism of competitive bidding: An Invacare study that at least 20.6% of the winning bidders have "questionable financial foundations." A CMS spokesman told Inside Health Policy, however: "We are not allowing suppliers in the competitive bidding program with 'questionable' finances. All suppliers must meet the financial standards established for the program--plus a number of additional standards and regulations applicable under the program (e.g. quality/accreditation, licensing, Medicare supplier standards, etc.)."

Repeal competitive bidding: VGM stays on message

The fat lady hasn't sung on the HME industry's chances of getting competitive bidding repealed, as far as The VGM Group is concerned. VGM officials are in Washington. D.C., this week to meet with lawmakers and Jonathan Blum, deputy director of CMS and director of the Center for Medicare. With VGM: Ken Brown, an economist and professor at the University of North Iowa who predicts a huge exodus of HME providers from rural areas. "The level heads out there are saying, 'This is a train wreck we need to fix,'" said John Gallagher, vice president of government relations for VGM. "Time is constricting on us very quickly, but we still need to make that effort."

Groups: Report bidding problems

WASHINGTON - AAHomecare and NAIMES last week continued to encourage providers and others to report bidding problems to them so they can relay those problems to CMS and Congress. Pre-implementation of the program, those problems include bid winners who are bankrupt or who lack the required state licensure or who have credit problems. AAHomecare directs providers, physicians, clinicians and patients to go to www.aahomecare.org and click on "What's New" to fill out an online form; NAIMES directs them to go to www.competitivebiddingconcerns.com.

Lawmakers on NCB: It could drive out quality suppliers

Reps. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, and Sue Myrick, R-N.C., sent a strongly worded letter to CMS Administrator Donald Berwick on Nov. 24 that casts doubt on the quality of the providers who won bids as part of competitive bidding. The lawmakers cite a recent study by Invacare that found about 20.6% of the winning bidders have "questionable financial foundations." "The competitive bidding program has a poor track record and we are concerned that seniors will have difficultly obtaining the supplies and services they need under this program," the lawmakers stated in their letter. "The new system could drive out quality suppliers who have reliably served seniors in the past."