Planes, trains and competitive bidding

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03/16/2011

There are no direct flights from Portland to DC, so I flew in to Baltimore. That means a combination of car, plane, shuttle, train and taxi to get to my destination. I enjoyed a free business class upgrade, a flight that landed early and an easy hop on a train.

Didn’t get stuck, appropriately enough, until I arrived in DC proper, in a mass of  confused humanity waiting in one very long, disorganized, blocking-all-the-doors line waiting for taxis outside Union Station.

I’ve waited for taxis before, but only in DC was it convoluted, time consuming and incredibly inefficient.

But enough with my all-too-obvious Congressional metaphor. Today’s conference was filled with many familiar faces, along with a few new ones. The big excitement: HR 1041, the new bill to repeal competitive bidding.

Do you know that bill is budget neutral? Even better, the HME industry is not being asked to take a pay cut, or cap anything or roll up their sleeves and give blood. Instead, the $20 billion that the CBO estimates it would cost to repeal competitive bidding comes from money that has been aside (appropriated in govspeak)—for other projects that have never happened, say a highway project in Texas that was never built or a government study to study, well something stupid that common sense already tells the rest of us.

That pot is estimated at $700 billion, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) told us today.

“It’s just sitting there,” he said. “Some of it’s been there for 5 or 6 years.”

That’s probably a relief for providers, who had no way themselves to offset the legislation, said AAHomecare’s Walt Gorksi.

“The cuts that have been so deep are coming home to roost,” he said.

But message that AAHomecare, and all of the speakers here today, told providers to take to the hill on Thursday, didn’t focus on money. Don’t let lawmakers sidetrack you with CBO scores, or budget neutrality or anything else. Just focus on what you do.

That's an important story to tell lawmakers, who can't be experts on everything, said Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-PA, who, along with Rep. Jason Altmire, D-PA, introduced HR 1041 last week..

“Thank you for coming to Washington,” he said. “We rely on people who live and breathe specific issues to come and share their expertise.”

Despite cuts, cries of fraud and abuse and all the other indignities providers face, they should be proud of what they do was the message repeated frequently this afternoon.

“You are making a difference in the quality of life,” Rep. Heath Shuler, D, NC, told attendees this afternoon. “Hats off to you.”

Theresa Flaherty