States lobby hard for H.R. 4491

Sunday, October 31, 2004

WASHINGTON - A friendly competition between state HME associations has yielded good results in drumming up support among elected officials for a bill that if passed would repeal reimbursement cuts mandated by the Medicare Modernization Act. There’s still, however, plenty of work to be done.

As of Oct. 4, 79 members of the House of Representatives had signed on as co-sponsors of H.R. 4491. Sponsored by Rep. David Hobson, R, Ohio, the bill would repeal reimbursement cuts based on Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP). That provision calls for reimbursement reductions of 10%-20% for home oxygen, 20% for hospital beds and 23% for nebulizers beginning in 2005.

Of the 79 congressmen who signed on as co-sponsors, 13 were from New York, 10 from New England, 12 from Ohio and nine from Pennsylvania.

“There is some competition among the states,” said Gloria Murray, president of the New York Medical Equipment Providers Association. “We all want to be number one for getting the most signatures. All the states are working hard to get it done.”

Maine, which is part of the New England Medical Equipment Dealers Association, distinguished itself in August when providers convinced both state representatives to co-sponsor the bill. In all, NEMED members have signed up 10 representatives.

“We have been fighting,” said NEMED member Bob Simmons, owner of Boston Home Infusion. “We have been able to rally legislative people and there are a few we are still chasing. You have to be a pain. You have to write a letter and send it to the person, and then my administrative assistant calls until someone calls us back.”

Because this is an election year, few industry watchers expect legislators to pass H.R. 4491 this year. To even bring the bill up for consideration, will, by most estimates, require 100-150 co-sponsors. Even if the bill isn’t brought to a vote, however, a strong showing of legislative support could convince CMS to delay implementing the FEHBP cuts for further study.

“A lot more people are catching on to the fact that if your cash flow relies on government programs you have to be involved in the process,” said Kam Yuricich, executive director of the Ohio Association of Medical Equipment Services.

Added Simmons: “If we don’t fight, we can’t blame anyone else. If we sit back and take it as it comes, we aren’t going to be here.”