Does HME need a Rostenkowski moment?

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07/21/2011

It's become increasingly clear that the HME industry needs to come up with an alternative plan to competitive bidding. Sooner rather than later.
Meanwhile, CMS continues to say that there aren't a lot of problems with competitive bidding. And it's true that the bennies have remained largely silent.
That, says John Gallagher, needs to change.
"I don't think we've brought bennies to bear," he told me. "The bennies, they have no idea what's going on with competitive bidding or how it impacts them. We as an industry have not done a good job educating them."
What we need, he said, is a Rostenkowski moment.
In 1989, then-Congressman Dan Rostenkowski, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, refused to meet with a group of senior citizens who were protesting proposed "Catastrophic Healthcare" legislation. Undaunted, they followed him, signs aloft and booing loudly. The media was there and got it on film.
About three weeks later, the unpopular legislation was history.
"We re not advocating beating up the chairman," says Gallagher, "but we've to got to bring the beneficiaries in so they are yelling and screaming, not the providers."
I agree. For one thing, there's lots more bennies than there are providers. And no one wants to mess with the AARP. As long as the very folks who this program is purported to hurt the most stay mum, CMS--and lawmakers--will continue to view the program through rosy lenses.
And the Rostenkowski moment? It lives on, thanks to YouTube.
Theresa Flaherty

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