Subcommittee scrutinizes bid program

Friday, September 7, 2012

WASHINGTON – When industry stakeholders give testimony during a congressional hearing tomorrow, one of the things they plan to do is paint the competitive bidding program as a job killer.

Stakeholders are scheduled to testify at a hearing titled "Medicare's Durable Medical Equipment Competitive Bidding Program: How are Small Suppliers Faring?" before the House Small Business Subcommittee on Healthcare and Technology.

"Lawmakers want to know what the impact is on small businesses," said John Gallagher, vice president of government relations for The VGM Group.

VGM has commissioned several studies on the economic impact of competitive bidding, and AAHomecare in July provided the House Ways and Means Committee with a list of more than 450 HME providers who have closed locations, sold their businesses or gone out of business due to the program.

Boosting the industry's message: a weak jobs report, released last week by the Labor Department, that showed U.S. employers added only 96,000 jobs last month—far less then anticipated. That means preserving the jobs of providers and their employees—rather then forcing them out of business—will be front of mind for lawmakers at the hearing.

"We are trying to make sure they've got our reports on jobs," said Gallagher. "And we want them to ask CMS, 'What is the impact of this and what are the jobs that are going to be impacted?'"

With lawmakers returning to the Hill this week, stakeholders say the hearing will provide momentum to move the market-pricing program (MPP) forward. In August, Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., agreed to introduce a bill for MPP.

"Everybody understands the issue, now it's just a matter of keeping it in the forefront," said Joel Marx, chairman of AAHomecare chairman and Cleveland-based Medical Service Co.

Scheduled to testify at the hearing: Laurence Wilson, director of the Chronic Care Policy Group for CMS; Peter Cramton, an economics professor and critic of the bidding program as currently designed; Tammy Zelenko, president/CEO of Bridgeville, Pa.-based Advacare Home Services, who will testify on behalf of AAHomecare; and Randy Mire, owner of Reserve, La.-based Gem Drugs, who will testify on behalf of the National Community Pharmacists Association.



I recently had to close my DME business which was in my family for over 4 generations.  When accreditation started I contacted my congressman, without any response.  When round 2 of competitive bidding came into play I knew the ship was sinking faster.  To try to survive in this down economy and  government regulations, only proved to destroy my small business.  Although I had only 4 employees who lost their jobs, they all had families to support. 

I can only predict that numerous other smaller DME companies will close leaving the big guys to take over.  The government has always stated it is the small businesses that keep us going, but soon that saying will all be in the past.