Legislative update: 'We're not seeing much opportunity'

Thursday, November 11, 2010

WASHINGTON - Members of Congress report back to work this week for a short lame-duck session, but don't expect them to pass any sweeping legislation, which doesn't bode well for the industry's bill to repeal competitive bidding, stakeholders say.

Members of Congress will likely work on a "doc fix" bill, which the industry has targeted as a potential vehicle for H.R. 3790, but it'll probably be a smaller bill with few, if any, attachments, stakeholders say.

"We're still pressing for it, but we're not seeing much opportunity," said Wayne Stanfield, executive director of NAIMES.

After Thanksgiving, members of Congress will likely report back to work for another short lame-duck session before Christmas.

Regardless of H.R. 3790's chances, the industry has nothing to lose and everything to gain by continuing to fight competitive bidding, especially with the elections earlier this month ushering in new faces and new political powerbrokers, stakeholders say.

"Whenever a body changes control, you have a lot of upheaval on the different committees," said Walt Gorski, vice president of government affairs for AAHomecare. "We anticipate that there will be about 20 new members of Congress on key committees, and we will work with our state leaders to make sure they understand HME issues."

While it must continue to fight competitive bidding, the industry must also prepare for the program's eventual roll out. AAHomecare has developed an online form for providers and beneficiaries to report problems with the program (See links below). It will share these problems with members of Congress, researchers and the media.

Additionally, The VGM Group, NAIMES and CSIHME have created a website, www.competitivebiddingconcerns.com, for beneficiaries and referral sources to report problems. They will share problems with CMS and members of Congress.

And there will be problems, stakeholders say. Some beneficiaries still don't even know if the program impacts them or not.

"I keep hearing snippets of completely wrong information that's being given out," said Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare. "Beneficiaries who don't live in a CBA--they're not in it; that's the rule. But then you have the CBIC saying if their suppliers are in the CBA, then only contract suppliers can serve them. That's flat out wrong, and I've heard that twice."

To access AAHomecare's form for providers, go to http://aahomecare.org/displayemailforms.cfm?emailformnbr=86671. For its form for beneficiaries, go to http://aahomecare.org/displayemailforms.cfm?emailformnbr=150150.