Stakeholders make progress on bidding relief

Democratic co-sponsor, Senate lead have signed on
Friday, October 30, 2015

ATLANTA – A bill that would soften the blow of the national expansion of competitive bidding is coming, AAHomecare officials told Medtrade attendees last week.

Stakeholders already have Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., committed to introduce the bill, but recently they were able to sign on Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., as a lead co-sponsor, making the effort bi-partisan; and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., as the lead on a companion bill.

“You want to see the bill already,” said Tom Ryan, president and CEO of AAHomecare. “We kept hearing the first week in September. Then the pope comes to visit and the speaker (steps down). We’re working it. We’re gaining the support. We want this bill here already (too).”

The bill would add 30% to pricing, softening the blow of what will likely be 45% to 50% cuts in non-bid areas on Jan. 1, and phase in the cuts over four years instead of six months as currently planned.

Adding 30% to pricing may seem like a tough sell to Congress, but Ryan pointed out that, based on an internal score, the bill would still save $5.5 billion.

“When you re-message that, it opens their eyes,” he said.

Also planned to be part of the bill: a demonstration project of the market pricing program or MPP. Price has been a champion of the alternative to the competitive bidding program for four years, but the effort has stalled in the Congressional Budget Office waiting for a score.

“He still believes MPP is the way to go,” said Jay Witter, vice president of public policy for AAHomecare. “He wants to do the demo and prove that it’s cost effective and then they won’t have a choice.”

AAHomecare officials also addressed efforts to expand prior authorizations on a national level (“This one Congress loves,” Witter said); to reform the audit program; and to stop scheduled cuts to accessories for complex power wheelchairs (Ryan gave a shout out to Don Clayback, executive director of NCART, which last week succeeded in getting a companion bill to stop the cuts introduced in the Senate).

To keep all of these initiatives moving forward, AAHomecare officials say they need help. The success of the Midwest Association for Medical Equipment Services and the seven providers in South Dakota in getting Thune’s support is a good example of what can be done, they said.

“This is what we need to do,” Witter said.

Ryan said the battles the industry faces are “outrageous,” but wins like getting legislation passed to make binding bids and proof of licensure a requirement of the bidding program prove that it can be done.

“Be optimistic about the industry,” he said. “You have to be optimistic.”