Price breathes new life into MPP

Friday, January 18, 2013

WASHINGTON – Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., has agreed to introduce a modified bill to replace competitive bidding with a market-pricing program (MPP), according to AAHomecare.

This time, Price has identified a senior Democrat to co-sponsor the bill, but stakeholders declined to identify the lawmaker.

“We are pleased that Congressman Price has stepped up and is going to help lead the charge again,” said Tyler Wilson, CEO of the association. “We are putting forward a program that is solidly built and won’t dismantle the homecare infrastructure.”

The new bill, which is expected to drop in the next few weeks, will be similar to H.R. 6490, with a few tweaks meant to address potential cost concerns raised by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

The biggest change to the bill’s language: A provision that would create an interim payment system in Round 2 bid areas. The system would use Round 2 pricing in those areas but allow any willing provider to supply products.

“There was a concern that, between the period when competitive bidding ends and MPP starts, CMS would have to go back to the original fee schedule,” said Jay Witter, senior director of government affairs for AAHomecare. “They said that would cost about $6 billion.”

Though tough to swallow, stakeholders don’t think the provision will be a hard sell to providers.

“If MPP doesn’t pass, those Round 2 prices are going into effect no matter what,” said Witter. “This keeps it budget neutral, but providers won’t go out of business.”

The bill’s language also updates the MPP timeline, allowing 18 months to fully implement the program.

With those changes, it’s more likely the industry will finally get its long-awaited CBO score—and a boost for MPP, say stakeholders.

“That score has been the main hurdle,” said Seth Johnson, vice president of government affairs for Pride Mobility. “Hopefully, we’ll get the score in a timely manner so we get MPP attached to a legislative vehicle that moves in February or March.”

Potential vehicles include bills to address spending cuts that go into effect March 1 and a possible debt ceiling increase.

“The likelihood of Congress doing something is very large,” said Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare. “Those must-pass pieces of legislation are what we’re gunning for.”

The immediate priority for the HME industry is to drum up support for MPP, starting with the 94 co-sponsors of H.R. 6490.

“It should be a matter of a quick phone call or email to get those folks signed on to this new bill,” said Wayne Stanfield, president and CEO of NAIMES.