Industry to lose champion


Say what you will about Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., and his party-hopping ways – he's been a champion for the HME industry.

Here are some excerpts from recent stories in HME News that highlight Specter's efforts to help the industry with preserving the first-month purchase option for standard power wheelchairs and delaying and/or eliminating competitive bidding:

  • On Dec. 6, Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., filed an amendment to preserve the first-month purchase option for standard power wheelchairs. The amendment, which the industry helped craft, would allow CMS to treat purchases like rentals and collect money back from providers, but only if beneficiaries use their wheelchairs for less than 13 months.
  • A group of eight Republican senators (including Specter) plans to send a letter to Michael Leavitt, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, asking him for a personal meeting to discuss the program's status and next steps. The senators argue that the department must address certain "widespread issues," including bidders who may have been unfairly disqualified, before moving forward.
  • Three senators (including Specter) and four representatives sent strongly worded letters to the Department of Health and Human Services last week, asking Secretary Michael Leavitt to delay national competitive bidding. All the letters referenced concerns about bidders who may have been disqualified unfairly and the short 10-day window for singing and returning contracts.

(An aside: What happened to these letter writing campaigns, anyway? It used to be that we'd get word of several a month. These days? Not so much.)

Unfortunately, Specter was defeated by Rep. Joe Sestak in the Democratic primary earlier this week.

So where does that leave the HME industry?

"He will be in office through the end of this year and he will continue to be an industry champion," said Seth Johnson, vice president of government affairs for Pride Mobility Products.

Good point. The first-month purchase option is scheduled to be eliminated Jan. 1, 2011, so if that's business that the industry isn't able to take care of this year, it's probably not going to take care of it all. Same goes for competitive bidding, which shares the same kickoff date.

Let's hope Specter plans to include delaying the first month purchase option and eliminating competitive bidding as part of his swan song.

Liz Beaulieu