Tanner, Hobson rally providers

Sunday, October 7, 2007

ORLANDO, Fla. - The two co-sponsors of a bill to lessen the blow of national competitive bidding called on providers to continue lobbying their legislators in a video keynote address last week at Medtrade.

"Please keep up your work, and I'll continue my work with others in Congress to ensure that you have the tools you need," said Rep. John Tanner, D-Tenn.

Rep. Dave Hobson, R-Ohio, said: "You can make a difference."

So far, the industry has helped to collect 121 co-sponsors for H.R. 1845. Invacare officials, who moderated a question-and-answer session that followed the keynote, called that a "respectable" amount, but they pointed out the bill needs at least 200 co-sponsors to ride the coattails of any future Medicare legislation.

In their keynote, Tanner and Hobson outlined their bill, which calls for an any-willing provider provision, and reiterated their concerns about competitive bidding, especially in rural areas.

Invacare's Cara Bachenheimer and Mal Mixon reminded providers of what's at stake if the industry fails to curb competitive bidding.

"Competitive bidding is the worst thing that has every happened to this industry," said Mixon, CEO. "It excludes half the industry and it dictates price. That used to be called communism."

There are no excuses for not lobbying legislators, attendees agreed. With all the resources they have at their fingertips, including form letters, lobbying legislators should be a "paint-by-numbers" process, said Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations.

"Our industry is at a critical time, and we need the participation of everyone," she said.

Industry officials expect legislators to propose several Medicare cuts in the upcoming weeks as a way to avoid cutting physician reimbursement by 10% on Jan. 1, 2008.