Obama's budget targets healthcare reform

Sunday, March 1, 2009

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama's proposed $3.55 trillion budget for 2010 may lack specifics, but it opens up opportunities for the HME industry, stakeholders say.

The 134-page budget outline, released Thursday, includes $630 billion over 10 years to finance healthcare reform. It also calls for strengthening the integrity and sustainability of Medicare, and speeding up adoption of health information technology (HIT).

"We need to be out there actively promoting AAHomecare's 13-point plan to increase those efforts and raise the bar for HME," said Seth Johnson, vice president of government affairs for Pride Mobility. "Also, HIT provides some opportunity to address documentation issues through the development of a more standardized process."

The fact that the plan is currently so vague--more details are expected in April--only reinforces the need for the industry to take a proactive stance now, says John Gallagher, vice president of government relations for The VGM Group.

"As it gets closer to who's paying for what and what the cuts are going to be, it forces us to move quicker," he said. "If we're waiting for that, we're on the short straw."

As lawmakers hammer out the details, expect to see Republicans digging in their heels on spending, said Johnson.

"They are largely taking the position that, 'We are spending a lot of taxpayer money here,' and there's real concern that it be spent in an appropriate manner," he said. "They want more checks and balances built into the spending."

At the end of the day, the HME industry needs to stay focused on its ongoing battles, says Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare.

"Our issues on Capitol Hill remain the same," she said. "Get rid of national competitive bidding and fix the post 36-month cap on oxygen. There's always a role for us being proactive and educating legislators about our key problems and the solutions to them."