Stakeholders: ‘Our issues are bipartisan’

Friday, November 14, 2014

YARMOUTH, Maine – When the balance of power shifts in the 114th Congress, HME leaders say the industry will be OK.

Democrats lost at least a dozen seats in the House and eight in the Senate, giving Republicans control of both after November’s midterm elections. 

Though the industry lost several of its most vocal champions, like Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, and John Barrow, D-Ga., as well as Howard Coble, R-N.C., who retired, Jay Witter, senior vice president of public policy at AAHomecare, says a shake-up in Washington isn’t necessarily a bad thing. 

New members in the House and the Senate often understand or are more willing to listen to the issues than some of the more senior members, he said. 

“With each election you lose some of your friends, but it’s an opportunity to get new ones,” said Witter.

The VGM Group has already invited Senator-Elect Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, who beat out Braley, and Representative-Elect Rod Blum, R-Iowa, to VGM headquarters. 

“We’ve had (Blum) out to VGM during the campaign, so he knows what we’re all about, but he doesn’t know all of our issues,” said John Gallagher, VGM’s vice president of government relations. 

Gallagher plans on discussing audits and competitive bidding with Blum during their December meeting. 

He’s also optimistic about the Republicans’ recent power grab, particularly incoming Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s, R-Ky., call for regular order, which would give committees more oversight over CMS and DHHS.

“Now you will have committees saying, ‘Before you roll out competitive bidding, you will complete an OIG study,’ or they can hold the hearings to review the OIG study once it’s done to see what the impact has been on small business, but also to the beneficiaries,” said Gallagher. “Right now, there’s no oversight.”

Though stakeholders are hopeful its key legislation—bills to reform the competitive bidding and audit programs—will be passed during the current lame duck session, they say they will get it reintroduced in the next session, if it doesn’t.

“With regard to the competitive bidding legislation, that’s largely been a bipartisan issue,” said Seth Johnson, vice president of government relations for Pride Mobility. “The audit legislation is largely bipartisan as well, so I don’t think it will be any more challenging in the new Congress than it is in this Congress.”