The disappointment was palpable on Friday, when word began spreading that the Senate had failed to pass a bill delaying a second round of Medicare reimbursement cuts in non-bid areas before it began its long summer recess.
I received twitter messages with swear words.
I received emails with GIFs showing a man sweating and biting his nails.
I received phone calls from business owners that can’t believe they’re expected to continue serving Medicare beneficiaries when their payments have been essentially cut in half.
As the ever-poignant Pat Naeger told the Southeast Missourian about the new payment rate of $86 per month for home oxygen therapy: “My cable bill is higher than that.”
Senators actually hightailed it out of D.C. on Thursday night, but official word didn’t come (at least to us at HME News world HQ) until noon on Friday from The VGM Group, and until 2:50 from AAHomecare.
Since the cuts already went into effect July 1, a retroactive delay was already Plan B. (Side note: How the logistics of a retroactive delay would even work are beyond me, considering CMS’s bungling of a one-year delay to a bid-related reimbursement cut to accessories for power wheelchairs).
It’s hard not to feel sorry for our HME industry.
What other industry succeeds in getting bills passed in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, but because they are different bills and because of “personality and politics,” a final bill never made it to the president’s desk to become law.
If I were a betting woman (which I’m not), I would have said a final bill was a given. The Senate even agreed to run with the House bill, which had a three-month vs. one-year delay and a non-Medicaid related pay-for.
I have a friend whose husband will get laid off from his job next week. She is stressed, but she also knows the situation is out of her control. What can you do, she says, but look forward and ask, where do we go from here?
So where do we go from here, HME industry? I’m in the process of trying to find out, amidst fielding tweets, emails and calls from justifiably angry providers.
What I know so far: a retroactive delay is still a possibility when lawmakers return to D.C. in September. Another option: a go-forward delay (a pause, if you will).
Industry stakeholders maintain that the lawmakers that passed two bills and the senators who initiated a “hotline process” for a final bill last week are in shock themselves about what happened.
“They are emboldened even more to get something substantive done in September,” said Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare. “The momentum was so strong, and the disappointment so great. There were a lot of lawmakers thinking, are you kidding me?”