Rep. Tanner introduces new, improved NCB bill

Sunday, April 1, 2007

WASHINGTON - Rep. John Tanner, D-Tenn., introduced a bill in the House of Representatives last week that would allow any provider to participate in national competitive bidding, so long as he agrees to submit a bid below the Medicare fee schedule amount and he meets other program requirements.

In addition to the so-called "any willing provider" provision, the bill requires Medicare to study competitive bidding's impact on beneficiaries and providers, and report back to Congress.

"These are common-sense modifications," said Pride Mobility's Wayne Grau, who has conducted nationwide grassroots efforts to fight NCB. "This is going to be a huge change to how people receive DME, and (Tanner) wants to make sure patients remain the focal point."

Tanner introduced the bill with Reps. David Hobson, R-Ohio, and Mike Ross, D-Ark, on March 29, the eve of a two-week district work period that ends April 13.

AAHomecare, state associations and other member groups encourage providers to reach out to their representatives.

"We need providers to be engaged on this issue," said Walt Gorski, AAHomecare's vice president of government affairs. "We're asking them to contact their officials and explain the deleterious impact of competitive bidding. Now that it's imminent, it's important to put on the pressure."

The industry will have to make quick work of its grassroots efforts. Medicare plans to kick off NCB in October. Ideally, the industry would have enough co-sponsors to get the bill attached to another larger bill this summer, sources said.

"It's a tight timeframe--it'd be nice if each provider gave us two hours a month," Grau said.

Other provisions in the Tanner-Hobson bill would force Medicare to exempt metropolitan statistical areas with a population of less than 500,000; exclude products that will not achieve "significant savings of at least 10% compared to the fee schedule in effect Jan. 1, 2007"; and refrain from expanding the program or applying bid rates to non-bid areas unless Congress says so.