NCB: Providers burn up phone lines

Sunday, December 6, 2009

WASHINGTON - HME providers last week made a whopping 5,000 phone calls in one afternoon as part of The VGM Group's "Shutdown the Switchboard" event. Their goal: Increase the number of co-sponsors for a bill that would end national competitive bidding.

At press time on Friday, the official tally of co-sponsors for H.R. 3790 was 75. The unofficial tally, according to industry stakeholders: 83.

"We sent out an e-mail blast to all of our employees, encouraging them to make calls and report back," said Jay Broadbent, president of Alpine Home Medical Equipment in Salt Lake City and vice president of the Utah Medical Equipment Dealers Association (UTMED). "They made 200 calls."

Providers in Colorado made the most calls: 665. They were followed by providers in Utah (384), Florida (360), Michigan (351) and North Carolina (324).

Rob Brant, president of City Medical Services in Miami Beach, Fla., made sure that an employee who lives in the district of Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, one of two representatives in the Miami area who hasn't co-sponsored the bill, participated in the event.

"He called and explained that he's been working for us for seven years and he's on our health insurance plan," said Brant, who's also executive director of the Accredited Medical Equipment Providers Association (AMEPA). "He doesn't want to lose that."

For H.R. 3790 to gain traction, industry stakeholders say it needs support from 218 representatives, a majority. Since the bill is budget-neutral, Broadbent says, "this should be a job we can get done."

"Every time we call or meet with a rep, that's the first thing out of their mouth: 'How are you going to pay for it?'" Broadbent said. "I'm glad we have an answer to that question. That resonates huge with reps. We just need to do a better job getting reps to sign on."

H.R. 3790 would eliminate competitive bidding in exchange for a mix of pay-fors, including a 0.25% reimbursement cut in 2010-12 and a 0.5% cut in 2015.

AARC backs competitive bidding bill

WASHINGTON - The American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC) has endorsed H.R. 3790, a bill that would eliminate national competitive bidding. In a Nov. 20 letter to Rep. Kendrick Meek, the sponsor of the bill, the AARC states: "The AARC believes your legislation is good for the patient, a sound Medicare policy and is fiscally responsible." The AARC's endorsement "underscores the severe clinical implications of providing home care to Medicare beneficiaries based on a lowest-cost bidding system," AAHomecare stated to members in a bulletin last week.