Legislative update: Industry hits the road

Friday, August 15, 2014

WASHINGTON – It’s game time for the industry’s efforts to reform the audit and competitive bidding programs, industry stakeholders say.

“We need to do everything we can to build support for our bills to put ourselves in the best possible position to be attached to a moving vehicle prior to the end of the year,” said Seth Johnson, vice president of government relations for Pride Mobility. “There’s plenty of opportunity to address all our issues.”

To that end, during the August legislative recess, stakeholders are talking up H.R. 5083, a bill to reform the audit program, and H.R. 4920, a bill to require binding bids as part of the competitive bidding program to lawmakers in their districts. The bills, introduced earlier this summer, have 14 and 29 co-sponsors, respectively.

Case in point: Karyn Estrella is spending August crisscrossing New England. She has meetings scheduled with 19 of the 21 congressional offices in those six states. The executive director of the Home Medical Equipment and Services Association of New England (HOMES) says there’s much more interest in the industry’s issues this year.

“They really seem to understand the burden that’s been put on the industry,” she said. “When we start talking about audits and they hear that people have to wait two years or more, they just can’t believe it.”

Stakeholders report successful meetings in several states, including Montana, where providers visited with Republican Rep. Steve Daines last week.

“He was focused on what our ‘ask’ was going be and that is to stop the roll out of bidding nationwide,” said John Gallagher, vice president of government relations for The VGM Group, who attended the meeting. “He’s also getting engaged on audits. His folks are talking (about) signing onto H.R. 5083 when he gets back.”

Following the August recess, the House Ways and Means Committee is planning a hearing on audits. A report released last week by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) says CMS needs to provide audit contractors with additional guidance and oversight.

“That adds more fuel to the fire of why we need guidance and regulation in terms of the audit legislation,” said Kim Brummett, senior director of regulatory affairs for AAHomecare. “I think momentum will increase with the report out.”

Lawmakers are due back in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 8, but with the looming elections, they will be in and out—mostly out, stakeholders predict. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, stakeholders say.

“I always find, as we get closer to an election, where all of the House and one-third of the Senate will be standing for election, they tend to be a little more attuned to their constituency and what they can do to help to ensure that they will vote to re-elect them,” Johnson said.