No rest for the weary

Thursday, April 22, 2010

WASHINGTON – All eyes have turned to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) in the industry’s fight to repeal national competitive bidding.

Now that the industry has a majority of the House of Representatives behind H.R. 3790, they’re waiting for the CBO to tell them how much the bill would cost.

“Before the House can advance the bill to the floor, it needs a CBO score,” said Seth Johnson, vice president of government affairs for Pride Mobility Products. “We’re working to secure that with Rep. Meek, the Ways and Means Committee and the Energy and Commerce Committee.”

Industry stakeholders believed H.R. 3790 was budget neutral—until the recently passed healthcare reform bill took away some of its pay-fors, including a 2% payment increase for HME in 2014. Once industry stakeholders get a score from the CBO, they will have a better idea of what additional pay-fors they may have to offer.

Timing is important because, by the end of June, CMS is expected to move the program a huge step forward by announcing winning bid amounts, and Congress is expected to pass another doc fix bill, which could serve as a vehicle for H.R. 3790.

“We need to get this done sooner rather than later,” said Walt Gorski, vice president of government affairs for AAHomecare. “Otherwise, there will be serious repercussions for providers and beneficiaries.”

Meanwhile, industry stakeholders advise providers to continue racking up co-sponsors for H.R. 3790 and courting a sponsor for a companion bill in the Senate.

“We’ve got a lot of warm bodies,” said Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare. “A number of Republicans would be happy to take the lead, but we need a Democrat.”

Stakeholders also advise providers to take a moment to pat themselves on the back for their “historic efforts” on H.R. 3790. They point out that past competitive bidding bills, H.R. 3559 and H.R. 1845, got 151 and 169 co-sponsors, respectively.

“Getting so many co-sponsors for H.R. 3790 is huge,” Bachenheimer. “It sends a strong signal to the House and to the Senate. They can’t ignore this anymore.”