Small providers converge on Capitol

Sunday, February 8, 2009

WASHINGTON - Industry stakeholders and providers will travel to Washington Wednesday to testify before the Small Business Committee about the damages wrought by national competitive bidding.

The North Carolina Association of Medical Equipment Services (NCAMES) worked with Rep. Heath Shuler, D-N.C., who chairs the Subcommittee on Rural and Urban Entrepreneurship, to organize the hearing.

"Competitive bidding damaged small providers and their ability to take care of patients," said Beth Bowen, executive director of NCAMES. "I believe the lessons we've learned from Round 1 will make our case stronger. The testimonies at the hearing will include stories of real people and real providers."

A hearing last May before the committee drew a standing room-only crowd. Laurence Wilson, CMS director of chronic care policy, was grilled on ensuring beneficiary safety, preparation for Round 2, subcontracting and licensure requirements.

Provider Bill Griffin will be one of those testifying at next week's hearing.

"I plan to tell Congress that this is a very, very bad idea for the consumer, for the Medicare program's integrity and for competition," said Griffin, president of Charlotte, N.C.-based Griffin Home Health Care. "I am going to ask them to eliminate the program altogether."

Griffin didn't win any contracts in Round 1.

"Medicare could simplify this whole process by setting prices," he said. "Anyone who wants to be involved, can be, and if they don't want to be involved, then don't."

The hearing offers the industry with an opportunity to put its perspective on the record for the new administration, said Seth Johnson, vice president of government relations for Pride Mobility.

"We need to continue to carry a strong message," he said. "There's significant problems with the program that need to be address. The new administration should not move forward until a complete review and analysis can occur."

CMS will also testify at the hearing, which coincides with AAHomecare's "Homecare on Capitol Hill Day." Bowen expects a big crowd to attend the 10 a.m. hearing.