Thompson, Altmire 'hopeful' about new bidding bill

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

WASHINGTON – Reps. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., and Jason Altmire, D-Pa., set the stage for a new bill to repeal competitive bidding at a press conference on March 15.

Thompson and Altmire introduced H.R. 1041, the Fairness in Medicare Bidding Act, on March 11. A previous bill to repeal the program, H.R. 3790, garnered 260 supporters in Congress last year.

Thompson is “hopeful we’ll get as much if not more traction,” with the new bill, according to AAHomecare.

Thompson and Altmire’s strategy to advance the new bill: Point out the problems that Round 1 of the program, which went into effect Jan. 1, has caused beneficiaries and small businesses.

“Now that it has happened, we have a demonstrably negative impact to this, and I think that’s going to help the case for repeal,” Altmire said, according to AAHomecare.

Thompson and Altmire plan to “pay for” repealing competitive bidding by rescinding $20 billion in “unobligated balances of all discretionary appropriations.” They leave it up to the director of the Office of Management and Budget to determine where those funds would come from, but they do stipulate that they can’t come from the Department of Defense or the Department of Veterans Affairs.

At AAHomecare’s Washington Legislative Conference, which began March 16, Rep. Heath Shuler, D-N.C., one of the speakers, told attendees that he would cosponsor H.R. 1041. Shuler said that while Congress faces tough budget choices, the budget cannot be balanced “on the backs of children and seniors,” according to AAHomecare.

Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., also told participants he would co-sponsor H.R. 1041.

A number of patient advocacy and consumer groups have already thrown their hats in the ring, too, according to AAHomecare. Among them: the ALS Association, the Bain Injury Association of America, and the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.

Also speaking in support of H.R. 1041 at the press conference on March 15: Tyler Wilson, president, AAHomecare; Georgie Blackburn, vice president, government relations, Blackburn’s; Cynthia Morton, executive vice president, the National Association for the Support of Long Term Care; Seth Johnson, vice president of government affairs, Pride Mobility Products, Inc.; John Shirvinsky, executive director, Pennsylvania Association of Medical Suppliers; Stan Holbrook, president and CEO, Three Rivers Center for Independent Living; and Barbara Rogers, president and CEO, National Emphysema/COPD Association (NECA).

“We appreciate the bipartisan leadership of Congressmen Thompson and Altmire who recognize that the Medicare bidding program is a severely flawed approach to providing care to seniors and people with disabilities,” Wilson commented in a press release to the national media. “Home-based care is already the most cost-effective setting for post-acute care, and this bidding system is merely a badly designed solution in search of a problem.”