Reporter's notebook: Audits are 'overly aggressive,' says staffer for Finance Committee

Thursday, March 24, 2011

WASHINGTON - Although H.R. 1041, the new bill to repeal competitive bidding, stole the spotlight at AAHomecare's recent Washington Legislative Conference, other industry concerns were not forgotten.

Here are a few key points to keep in mind when talking to lawmakers, either on Capitol Hill or back in their home districts:

Audits run amok

Audits are getting to be a "hot button" issue with Congress, Walt Gorski, vice president of government affairs for AAHomecare, told conference attendees. But it's not enough to say, "Don't audit us." Focus on the unintended consequences of those audits, he said.

"What are we putting providers and beneficiaries through because of this?" said Gorski. "It's wasting taxpayer dollars. What is the return on investment?"

The current audit process is both expensive and abusive, agreed speaker Dan Todd, a staffer to the Senate Finance Committee.

"This is an overly aggressive government process that is in some cases getting in the way of providing for these patients," he said.

Fraud and abuse? Absolutely not!

It's all too easy for the government to point to the HME industry and cry fraud, and that's just plain wrong, Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., told attendees.

"Allegations of fraud are destructive to the relationships of providers and patients," he said. "They think every single person in the chain of caring for the patients (is in it for the money). If you get comments from the Feds that make you feel like a criminal, we want to hear about it."

Don't let lawmakers mistake the competitive bidding program for an anti-fraud tool, either, said Jay Witter, senior director of government affairs for AAHomecare. It's not.

"Fraud is a completely different issue," he said. "Medicare fraud is done by criminals who don't care how much the equipment costs--they aren't providing it."

Make it personal

Above all, keep reminding lawmakers what it is you do, said provider Joel Marx, president of Cleveland-based Medical Service Co. and AAHomecare chairman.

"We're the good guys," he said. "All we need to do is take care of patients. If you keep remembering why you do this, everything else is going to fall into place."