States prepare to rally behind upcoming NCB legislation

Sunday, July 3, 2005

WASHINGTON - AAHomecare last week created a new ad hoc committee devoted to the specific challenges small HME providers will face under a national competitive bidding program. Among other things, the committee will lobby for an "any qualified provider" provision the association hopes will be included in upcoming homecare legislation.

AAHomecare said last week it believes CMS should allow "any qualified provider to compete under competitive bidding and should not limit the number of homecare providers if they can meet prescribed prices and quality standards."

That provision, which is expected to be included in forthcoming legislation drafted by Rep. David Hobson, R-Ohio, could be contentious, however, because it could take away the incentive for providers to bid low for contracts if they are not guaranteed more Medicare business.

"That's going to be where the rub is," said AAHomecare Chairman Tom Ryan. "That's the battle. Can we convince the key people and get enough legislators to sign off on a bill where there might be a feeling that you are taking away the market strategy of competition based on the fact that you can get a larger market share?"

Karyn Estrella, chairperson of AAHomecare's state leader's council also argued that RTI, the company responsible with helping CMS implement NCB, during a recent PAOC meeting said that providers who win bids will not necessarily be guaranteed a certain number of new beneficiaries.

AAHomecare's small business committee will serve in some respects as a grassroots organizer in the effort to rally providers around the Hobson legislation. It will include at least 10 members representing the state associations, AAHomecare committees, the MED Group and the VGM Group. It aims to have its first meeting by mid-July.

"If anything, what came through to me loud and clear is that there's a general concern from the small business providers out there that there is not a good, succinct plan to fight competitive bidding, and because of that feeling we decided to bring this group together to do just that," said Ryan, who is also president of Farmingdale, N.Y-based Homecare Concepts.

Ryan said the committee will also address issues like defining 'small business' and helping formulate legislative fixes to small provider concerns, as well as rally support for the Hobson bill.

"If we do get a good grass roots effort going and get small business people speaking out on the Hill, then perhaps we can get this taken care of," he said. "It's going to be a long fight over the summer."