Ten more lawmakers call for FEHBP cuts repeal

Sunday, June 20, 2004

June 21, 2004

“The encouraging thing about that list is that six were Republican and one was majority whip, so I think the right kind of pressure is going out,” said George Kucka, president of Fair Meadows Home Health Care in Schererville, Ind., who made a number of legislative visits during the fly-in.
More Republican than Democratic co-sponsors are likely to drive change in the House since both chambers of the 108th Congress are controlled by Republicans.
In addition to David Hobson, D-Ohio, and Harold Ford, Jr., D-Tenn., the nine 9 new co-sponsors are Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Majority Whip; Sherwood Boehlert, R-N.Y.;  Jeb Bradley, R-N.H.; Jim Cooper, D-Tenn.; Virgil Goode, R-Va.; Steven LaTourette, R-Ohio;  Jim Nussle, R-Ia.; Mike Ross, D-Ark; Ellen Tauscher, D-Calif; and Peter Visclosky, D-Ind.
“[David] Hobson told the Ohio delegation that we’d need 100-130 members [as co-sponsors] before the leadership take notice,” said Cara Bachenheimer, vice president of government relations at Invacare.
That’s now the magic number at AAHomecare.
A broad coalition for support for repeal in the House would then put CMS on notice as they begin to implement provisions of the Medicare Modernization and Prescription Drug Act (MMA), said Bachenheimer.
The industry’s FEHBP strategy is a legislative/regulatory play. Although Hobson and Ford are spearheading a legislative fix, most doubt that legislation to repair portions of the MMA will pass in this session. Those critics include Tom Scully, the former CMS Administrator, who said as much at the AAHomecare conference.
But sufficient Congressional support could prompt CMS to delay implementation of the cuts, especially now that the principal architect of the MMA, Bill Thomas, R-Calif., has expressed concern about the solidity of the data CMS will use to make those cuts.
The FEHBP cuts and a looming oxygen cut would reduce reimbursement on approximately two-third’s of CMS’s DME expenditures, ranging from 3% for the K0011 power wheelchair to 22% for nebulizers. Critics of the FEHBP percentages say the demographic particulars of federal employees and Medicare beneficiaries hardly make the cuts viable and that the government is once again confusing apples and oranges.
“If CMS has to go through some of that analysis, that could delay implementation until we are able to attach it to a moving vehicle,” said Bachenheimer.