MPP: HME industry ready to 'rock and roll'

Friday, August 31, 2012

WASHINGTON – Expect to see Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., introduce a bill for the market-pricing program (MPP) soon after Congress reconvenes Sept. 10, industry stakeholders say.

"He's indicated that he wants to move forward with the legislation since the congressional calendar is running short," said Jay Witter, senior director of government affairs for AAHomecare.

Price indicated in late August that he was willing to take the lead on MPP, an alternative to the competitive bidding program. The bill is currently being drafted, and AAHomecare has been working with his office to line up a Democratic co-sponsor.

Price, a physician by training who has introduced other industry-related bills, is the perfect choice to shepherd the bill, say stakeholders. 

"He has always talked about how patients should have choice in their health care," says Teresa Tatum, executive director of the Georgia Association of Medical Equipment Services, which hosted a reception for Price in August. "If you can present something to him that shows what's best for the patient, you can generally count on him getting behind it." 

Stakeholders have been pushing MPP for the better part of a year. Although it has been favorably received by lawmakers, it has been tough to get a sponsor for a bill without a score from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). MPP has, however, been scored by an industry actuary that found it to be budget neutral.

"Congressman Price recognizes that the industry is committed to making sure that it's budget neutral and is comfortable with going forward with the legislation based on that commitment," said Seth Johnson, vice president of government affairs for Pride Mobility Products. 

But sooner rather than later, the bill will need a CBO score.

"We've got to get folks that are energized to say, 'Hey CBO, we've got the bill and we've got it ready to rock and roll,’" said John Gallagher, vice president of government relations for The VGM Group. "This is the best time to get a good chunk of folks calling."

Also on the to-do list: gathering support for the bill—no easy task.

"How many co-signers can we get in a relatively short period of time?" said Wayne Stanfield, president and CEO of NAIMES. "And can we get a Senate companion bill in the face of opposition from Democratic leadership on the Senate Finance Committee? Those things are going to be critical." 

Once all the pieces are in place, stakeholders hope to get the bill attached to a bigger bill during the lame-duck session.

"That's the more realistic route," said Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare. "We believe there will be a Medicare bill later this year. We have an uphill battle but this is an important step."