New sense of urgency for MPP

'We have another bite of the apple'
Friday, January 4, 2013

WASHINGTON – With no time to lick their wounds, industry stakeholders are now targeting a must-pass bill to address a series of spending cuts as a potential vehicle for their market-pricing program (MPP).

The “fiscal cliff” deal, which did not include language to replace competitive bidding with MPP, delays $130 billion in automatic spending cuts until March 1. That gives stakeholders a small window to resurrect the program.

“We have another bite of the apple, but we need to do everything we possibly can to get our act together and get into whatever legislation moves in the next 60 days,” said Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare.

A possible first step in getting that act together: Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., on Jan. 3 introduced H.R. 27, a bill to repeal competitive bidding. Velazquez is the ranking member of the House Small Business Committee.

Additionally, Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., who introduced H.R. 6490 in the 112th Congress, remains committed to replacing competitive bidding with MPP, as do more than a dozen other lawmakers who sit on key committees like House Ways and Means, stakeholders say.

“I largely believe we’re in as good a position as we’ve ever been in with the committee leaders to advance an alternative,” said Seth Johnson, vice president of government affairs for Pride Mobility Products. “It’s just a matter of continuing the dialogue.”

A new bill is only one step in a multi-step strategy, stakeholders say. Additionally, AAHomecare officials had a “positive” meeting with CMS Acting Administrator Marilyn Tavenner on Dec. 26 to discuss competitive bidding and MPP, and they continue to have conversations with the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) about a score for the program.

“We don’t want to have a knee-jerk reaction,” said Jay Witter, senior director of government affairs. “We want all of our ducks in a row, so we have a well thought out strategy that will allow MPP to get signed into law.”

Something that might actually help the industry’s cause: the release of the Round 2 payment amounts, which were due Dec. 20. While CMS will likely use the announcement to boast about the program’s savings, stakeholders say they can also use it to draw attention to its flaws.

“Look at the whole thing with the fiscal cliff—sometimes it takes a crisis to get Congress to act,” said Rob Brant, CEO of AMEPA.

While not getting into the year-end “fiscal cliff” deal was a setback, the industry must remain focused and redouble its efforts, stakeholders say.

“We went over the cliff with everything else, but the difference is no one pulled us back,” said Wayne Stanfield, president and CEO of NAIMES. “But we can’t be disheartened. We have to win this fight.”