Stakeholders take stock in wake of Price’s resignation

‘While it does slow down our momentum, it will not stop us’
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Friday, October 6, 2017

WASHINGTON – Tom Price’s resignation from the Department of Health and Human Services shouldn’t have an impact on a pending interim final rule, industry stakeholders say. What’s lesser known: Whether it will have an impact on a final fix for the competitive bidding program.

The IFR, which promises to provide relief from bid-related pricing in non-bid areas, is waiting to be cleared by the Office of Management and Budget—something that could happen any day now, stakeholders say.

“All the other people that Price brought into the agency with him, including CMS Administrator Seema Verma, are still there, so it’s not going to change the direction of the IFR,” said Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare. “I feel optimistic that that’s still going to come out.

“The bigger question mark,” she continued, “is the longer-term fixes to the bid program. But I feel more optimistic than not on that, too.”

HHS, under Price’s leadership, was looking very closely at how it might replace the bid program with a market-pricing program. As a member of Congress, Price introduced legislation that would have done just that.

So stakeholders are doubling down on their already strong relationships with Verma, whose name has been dropped as a potential replacement for Price.

“We were able to get a meeting with her within two weeks of Price being confirmed,” said Tom Ryan, president and CEO of AAHomecare. “She certainly knows who we are and is aware of the bidding issues.”

Asked whether Price’s resignation means stakeholders and their champions in Congress need to step on the gas on legislation to reform the bid program, as well as to eliminate a “double dip” cut to reimbursement for oxygen concentrators, Ryan said, “we’re sorting that all out right now.”

“Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers has been contemplating legislation—and still is,” he said.

Stakeholders say, despite Price’s resignation, the HME industry is creating a perfect storm for action that includes an IFR that recently garnered support from 104 representatives in just a handful of days, pending legislation, and a survey that highlights major access issues.

“While Price’s (resignation) does slow down our momentum, it will not stop us,” said John Gallagher, vice president of government relations for VGM, in a recent video update to members. “We have great support on Capitol Hill; we have great support in the administration; we have great support inside HHS and CMS. Keep the faith.”