Stakeholders stand their ground

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Wednesday, July 3, 2019

WASHINGTON – The bid window for Round 2021 may be opening next week, but industry stakeholders are still racking up co-sponsors for H.R. 2771 and working on a Senate companion bill.

“As we move forward (with the program) it gets more complicated, but Congress has the power and the authority to (make changes) at any time through legislation,” said Jay Witter, senior vice president of government relations for AAHomecare.

In May, Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., and Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, introduced H.R. 2771, a bill that would provide relief from the bid program in rural and non-rural non-bid areas, and eliminate the budget neutrality requirement for oxygen. It currently has 31 co-sponsors.

Now it’s time to push for a Senate companion bill, most likely spearheaded by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.

“Everybody still looks to Sen. Thune—he remains kind of the champion on the side of Senate Finance,” said John Gallagher, vice president of government relations for VGM. “His staff is waiting on the Congressional Budget Office to come up with a score, which we think will be nil to none, but they are still waiting.”

In making their asks, stakeholders point to recent successes. A bill in the House of Representatives that would temporarily stop Medicare from applying competitive bidding pricing to accessories for complex rehab manual wheelchairs passed the Ways and Means Committee with a voice vote on June 26; and a pair of sign-on letters in the House and Senate asking HHS and CMS to drop non-invasive vents from Round 2021 garnered 180 and 38 signatures, respectively.

“It’s nice with all these different issues and different champions, we’re all coordinating efforts on the overall goal, which is to fix the program,” said Witter.

Meanwhile, stakeholders have their fingers crossed that providers have done their homework on bidding and are taking advantage of bid calculators, webinars and in-person seminars. The industry’s competitive bidding website, www.dmecbpeducation.com, drew 1,629 unique visitors in the first 10 days of June alone.

“People appear to be using the material and we are continuing the push,” said Cara Bachenheimer, head of the Government Affairs Practice at Brown & Fortunato. “The numbers speak very well; so far, so good.”