Ohio Republicans balk at bill that includes NCB

Sunday, November 2, 2003

November 3, 2003

WASHINGTON - Several Republican Congressmen from Ohio and Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., are throwing down the gauntlet over any Medicare reform proposal that includes competitive bidding. And Washington is taking notice.

Articles published this morning in Roll Call and CQ assert that Ohio senators George Voinovich and Mike DeWine, Rep. David Hobson, R-Ohio, and Landrieu will not vote for HR 1 if it includes competitive bidding.

Hobson’s decision to vote against such a proposal is far-reaching because the House Medicare reform proposal (also known as HR 1) squeaked by with just one vote, and one of those was Hobson’s. Hobson originally voted for the House proposal, believing that a “reasonable accord” would preclude inclusion of the onerous provision.

But as Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Calif., insists on its inclusion, Hobson, citing the negative impact that competitive bidding will have on small business, is threatening to defect.

Although competitive bidding is generally considered a “relatively obscure provision,” according to Roll Call, the issue has loomed large in recent days of deliberation.

“The hours spent on the issue (last week) slowed progress on other outstanding questions in the bill,” according to CQ.

Last week, the industry seemed to be on the verge of resigning itself to a Medicare reform bill that would include a CPI freeze on DME for one year or three years, while CMS readied the implementation of competitive bidding in at least four, maybe six product categories.

But the concrete that might have been setting last week has been stepped in by the Ohio Republicans and Landrieu.

For weeks, the trade groups have been imploring HME providers and vendors to exert political pressure on their Congressional delegation, if only so those members would voice support for the industry’s positions on competitive bidding and the freeze.

“These senators (who support the HME industry’s positions) need to know they are backed up,” said Cara Bachenheimer, Invacare’s vice president of government affairs.