New AAH group fights for small HMEs

Sunday, July 31, 2005

WASHINGTON -- AAHomecare in June created a new ad hoc committee that will lobby for an "any qualified provider" provision in nationwide competitive bidding and other issues of specific interest to small HME suppliers.
The trade group said last week it believes CMS should not limit the number of HME providers under competitive bidding if those providers can meet prescribed prices and quality standards.
That provision, now in legislation drafted by Rep. David Hobson, R-Ohio, could be contentious, however, because it could take away the incentive for providers to bid low for contracts if they are not guaranteed more Medicare business.
"That's going to be where the rub is," said AAHomecare Chairman Tom Ryan. "That's the battle. Can we convince the key people and get enough legislators to sign off on a bill where there might be a feeling that you are taking away the market strategy of competition based on the fact that you can get a larger market share?"
Cara Bachenheimer, Invacare's vice president of government relations, argues that winning providers in the demonstrations in Polk County, Fla. and San Antonio, Texas, did not see any appreciable increase in their business during the bid period.
"In this particular environment, suppliers will have no idea if they are one of three or one of 50 winning bidders," she said. "The bidding structure in no way gives a supplier any meaningful information that they would realize any significant increase in business."
AAHomecare's small business committee will serve in some respects as a grassroots organizer in the effort to rally providers around the Hobson legislation. It will include at least 10 members representing the state associations, AAHomecare committees, and the MED Group and VGM. It aims to have its first meeting by mid-July.
"If anything, what came through to me loud and clear is that there's a general concern from the small business providers out there that there is not a good, succinct plan to fight competitive bidding, and because of that feeling we decided to bring this group together to do just that," said Ryan, who is also president of Farmingdale, N.Y-based Homecare Concepts.
Ryan said the committee will also address issues like defining 'small business' and helping formulate legislative fixes to small provider concerns.