Stakeholders protect, promote
WASHINGTON - A bill dropped by House Republicans on Friday includes a two-year "doc fix" but doesn't appear to include any cuts to HME, say industry stakeholders.
"We're cautiously optimistic that they realize they've already whacked us pretty good," said John Gallagher, vice president of government relations for The VGM Group. "Of course, both sides are playing politics so the likelihood that something gets thrown in there at the 11th hour is probably still good."
The bill would prevent a planned cut of nearly 30% in Medicare reimbursement to physicians; extend the current payroll tax rate for one year; and continue unemployment benefits. It proposes paying for the doc fix by repealing parts of the healthcare reform law and charging high-income seniors more for Medicare.
While stakeholders continue to press lawmakers to support an alternative to competitive bidding, they acknowledge that time is running out to get their market pricing program (MPP) attached to either a doc fix bill or an omnibus spending bill, both of which need to be passed by the end of the year.
"With the clock running out on this session of Congress, we're still working hard to find a way to move the MPP in legislation and address budget questions about it," said Michael Reinemer, vice president, communications and policy, for AAHomecare. "At the same time, members of Congress need to continue to hear that the bidding program must be stopped and replaced with a reasonable system to achieve market prices."
Every day that Round 2 advances could decrease the industry's chances of replacing the program, say stakeholders. Registration opened for Round 2 of competitive bidding last week, and the bid window is set to open Jan. 30
"CMS is too entrenched with their view that it's working, and they are going to counter every conceivable avenue we pursue," said Wayne Stanfield, president and CEO of NAIMES. "It's going to take something really serious to stop the momentum on this."