Proposed legislation would repeal DME cuts

Sunday, June 6, 2004

June 7, 2004

WASHINGTON - Two members of the U.S. House of Representatives introduced legislation last week to repeal cuts for six key items of DME, including oxygen and power wheelchairs, scheduled to take effect in January 2005.
The reimbursement cuts are part of the Medicare Modernization Act, which became law in December 2003. If implemented, CMS would use pricing data based on the Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan to reduce pricing for oxygen, manual wheelchairs, power wheelchairs, nebulizers, diabetic supplies and air mattresses.
If passed, H.R. 4491 would repeal the cuts. Rep. David Hobson, R-Ohio, and Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-Tenn) introduced the bill.
“We now have an official bill that has been introduced, and it is now our job as an industry to garner support,” said Cara Bachenheimer, Invacare’s vice president of government relations. “It is very easy for a member of Congress to show his support by signing on as a sponsor of the bill. That is what we need to do to build some momentum.”
The industry has a perfect opportunity to garner congressional support this week during AAHomecare’s Legislative Conference in Washington. More than 200 AAHomecare members are scheduled to attend the annual conference and lobbying event. During meetings with congressional staffers or representatives, AAHomecare members will ask them to sponsor the legislation, said AAHomecare President Kay Cox.
Most likely, the Congress will not vote on this bill individually but attach it to a bigger piece of legislation. But for that to happen, the industry must first drum up the necessary support. At this point that seems doable, Bachenheimer said.
Members of Congress she’s talked to seem to agree with the industry’s argument that comparisons between FEHBP and Medicare are inappropriate because FEHBP plans serve a younger, healthier population and impose fewer administrative burdens on providers. The provision was also inserted into the MMA at the last minute and based on insufficient data, argue industry supporters.
“Those are good arguments,” Bachenheimer said. “You don’t make policy in a hasty and ill-founded way. That makes sense to a lot of people.”