Thursday, July 31, 2003

The 2004 election and NCB for DME

Q. What role does the 2004 election play in the Medicare debate currently going on in Congress? What does this mean for DME competitive bidding?

A. Medicare reform is an issue that brings out the most fundamental differences in the two parties, and while we enjoyed a short-lived bipartisan spirit with the Senate passage of S. 1, debate over Medicare legislation has quickly taken on a much more partisan tone as the 2004 election season has drawn closer. As evidence of this, you may have noticed in recent weeks that both parties have been drawing partisan ‘lines in the sand’ over what they will - and will not - accept in the Medicare legislation. This rhetoric will only increase as we get closer to any potential conference agreement or Congress’ ’04 holiday adjournment, whichever comes first.

What does this mean for DME competitive bidding? That depends on one’s reading of the political landscape. Certainly, if no bill is enacted by Congress, especially one that includes competitive bidding, this would be a positive development for the HME industry. However, due to the budgetary dynamic, competitive bidding will likely be in play until the bitter end, and should this longer term scenario play out, one of the more likely results would be for the House-Senate conferees to produce a much more limited Medicare package with a handful of budgetary offsets. We would have to be extremely vigilant in this type of end game.

In the mean time, we cannot count on Congress NOT passing a bill. We should all assume a bill is likely, and we need to act accordingly.

- Kay Cox is CEO of AAHomecare. Reach her at 703-836-6263.