New MPP bill starts strong
WASHINGTON – The HME industry needs to hit the ground running now that a new bill to replace competitive bidding with a market-pricing program (MPP) has been dropped, say stakeholders.
“This is not the beginning of the battle, this is the meat of the battle,” said Joel Marx, AAHomecare chairman. “There is no turning back.”
Right out of the gate, H.R. 1717, the “Medicare DMEPOS Market Pricing Program Act of 2013,” had 25 co-sponsors. Reps. Tom Price, R-Ga., and John Larson, D-Conn., introduced the bill April 24.
Price introduced a similar bill in the previous Congress. That bill eventually gained 94 co-sponsors.
“We’re hoping we can rack up a bunch of additional co-sponsors really quickly,” said Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations with Invacare. “Those previous co-sponsors should immediately be signing back on.”
The biggest weapon in the industry’s arsenal: The list of Round 2 contract suppliers, released April 11, which reveals a small number of total contract suppliers and a small number of local contract suppliers in bid areas. Industry stakeholders are working with state associations to flesh that out with data.
“We need to package that up, state by state,” said Bachenheimer. “Then they can see their local providers have been passed over in favor of these—in many cases—brand-new, inexperienced companies.”
For H.R. 1717, the “pay for” is split between reduced interim payments for providers in Round 2 areas until MPP is implemented and unspent federal funds, stakeholders say. Price’s previous bill called for interim payments equal to the single payment amounts, but with reduction in reimbursement of, on average, 45%, that wasn’t an option, stakeholders say.
“This doesn’t hold the HME industry responsible for the whole 45%,” said Jay Witter, vice president of government affairs for AAHomecare. “This sends a signal to Congress that we are serious about paying for a better system, but that we are not solely responsible for the terrible Round 2 results.”
In another effort on the competitive bidding front, Rep. Robert Wittman, R-Va., has submitted language to the Appropriations Committee that would stop funding for the competitive bidding program until MPP is passed. With the introduction of H.R. 1717, that may no longer be necessary, say stakeholders.
“It was a positive step that he put that out there,” said Wayne Stanfield, president of NAIMES. “It shows members are concerned and they are reaching out in whatever ways they can think to stop this.”
Catching the industry by surprise last week: the announcement by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., that he would not seek re-election. Baucus chairs the influential Senate Finance Committee, which oversees Medicare and Medicaid.
Still, the announcement shouldn’t have much impact on current efforts to stop competitive bidding, say stakeholders.
“He’s still there for two more years, he’s still the chairman, and he’s still important,” said John Gallagher, vice president of government relations for The VGM Group.