Stakeholders grease wheels for possible action in September

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Friday, July 28, 2017

WASHINGTON – Industry stakeholders have legislative language being vetted that would freeze payment rates at the Jan. 1, 2016, amounts, and fix the so-called “double-dip” for oxygen payments.

The news comes on the eve of the August recess, a time when HME providers need to turn up the heat on lawmakers while they’re back in their home districts.

“Then we can say, ‘Here’s your August meeting agenda,’” said Tom Ryan, president and CEO of AAHomecare. “Get them to understand this language so when the House of Representatives comes back in September the legislation can be dropped with bi-partisan support.”

Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, R-Wash., has agreed to sponsor the legislation. Stakeholders are working to get a Democratic co-sponsor.

Providers in New England will be doing their part to get the word out. The state association representing HME providers in six states has already lined up nearly a dozen appointments—many with the representatives themselves.

“I have never seen as many meetings where we are meeting with the representatives,” said Karyn Estrella, executive director of the Home Medical Equipment and Services Association of New England or HOMES. “I would hope that—we’ve been reaching out to these folks for a good 10 or 12 years—they are really starting to hear about the problems.”

Those problems have snowballed in the last few years, said Estrella.

“We are sharing with them how many companies have gone out of business,” she said. “In some states, there are 50% fewer companies in three short years. It’s mind-boggling.”

Despite the noise surrounding the Senate’s efforts to reform health care, stakeholders remain optimistic they will be heard. John Gallagher was in Montana recently, visiting lawmakers’ offices with providers, including that of Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont.

“They are looking to get past this and move onto other things,” said Gallagher, vice president of government relations for The VGM Group. “They are ready start working on things that are important for rural health care.”

The fight against the bid program has been a protracted one, but now’s not the time to slow down, stakeholders say.

“I know it sounds like the same old, same old, but it’s still really important for folks to keep those channels of communication open,” said Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare.