Stakeholders run with new Senate bill
WASHINGTON – Drop everything, pick up the phone and ask your senator to sign onto a new Senate companion bill that seeks to improve the competitive bidding program.
That’s the message AAHomecare has for the HME industry.
“There’s no tomorrow,” said Tom Ryan, president and CEO of AAHomecare. “We have a very, very short window. We need to get senators lined up on the bill.”
The Competitive Bidding Improvement Act, S. 2975, introduced Dec. 4 by Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Ben Cardin, D-Md., is similar to H.R. 4920. It has three key components: Providers need to prove they are licensed before they submit bids; bidders would be required to obtain bid bonds; and bonds will be forfeited if the bidder declines the contract and was at or below the bid price.
“The bid bond gets rid of the ability of speculative bidders to just throw in bids across the country when they may have no intention of fulfilling those contracts,” said Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations at Invacare.
With just a few weeks left of the current legislative session—and the Round 2 recompete looming—there is no time to waste. There are three options for the bill: getting it passed as a standalone bill; getting it passed as part of a larger piece of legislation; or getting it placed on the suspension calendar.
“We’re pulling out all the stops,” said Jay Witter, senior vice president of government relations for AAHomecare.
Although the industry has seen several House bills over the years, this is the first time legislation has been introduced in the Senate. Both Portman and Cardin, members of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, represent states that have seen firsthand the problems associated with the bidding program. For example, *Maryland saw more than 100 contract suppliers in Round 2 without proper licensure.
“Once they saw the problems, there was a dramatic shift (in attitude toward the program),” said Witter.