MPP: Co-sponsor tally rises, watchdog group tries another tack

Friday, December 21, 2012

WASHINGTON – The week before Christmas, HME industry stakeholders wrapped up seven more co-sponsors for H.R. 6490, bringing the total to 87.

“This demonstrates significant strength for this bill,” said Walt Gorski, vice president of government affairs for AAHomecare. “It’s not easy to get 80 or 90 co-sponsors on anything. Everyone is working hard to move the bill in any legislative vehicle this year.”

As the long holiday weekend advanced, it was looking like the industry might get a little extra time to do just that. The latest attempt by lawmakers to avert a looming fiscal crisis failed Dec. 20, leaving open the possibility that a solution could be pushed into the new year.

“There’s a huge question mark on what, if anything, is going to happen,” said Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare. “They could come back in early January and do something really quickly so we would have an opportunity then with MPP. We need to keep pounding the pavement.”

Also looking like it will be pushed to January: the single payment amounts for Round 2 of competitive bidding, which CMS had planned to announce sometime in the fall of 2012.

The industry isn’t the only group still trying to put a halt to the program as it currently stands. Watchdog group the Center for Regulatory Effectiveness (CRE) on Dec. 19 filed the first of several Freedom of Information Act requests seeking information about the methodology of the bidding program. Although CMS has discretion over the design of the program, the law requires the agency to use an accepted auction method—something it hasn’t done, says Bruce Levinson, senior vice president of regulatory intervention for the CRE.

“The idea is not that you can’t do competitive bidding, but that it has to be done right,” he said. “As a result of the poor model, the (pricing) data that is coming out is not reliable or accurate, and does not reflect a competitive price.”

Previous attempts by various stakeholders seeking similar data have been met with resistance by CMS, which has been criticized for its lack of transparency with the program.

The CRE ultimately plans to file a Data Quality Act petition against the program. The act requires federal agencies to use accepted scientific methods when making regulations.

“Nothing else has worked,” said Levinson. “CMS has not been willing to reform their program or modify their methodology.”