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Industry challenges: ‘They’re concerning to everyone’

Industry challenges: ‘They’re concerning to everyone’

Jay WitterWASHINGTON – AAHomecare kicked off the busy fall legislative session with its first-ever Virtual Legislative Conference last week and a sign-on letter pressing CMS to finalize a DMEPOS proposed rule that would adjust payment rates. 

The letter, spearheaded by Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., a ranking member on the House Energy & Commerce Committee, and Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., is the first in a two-step process to get relief for the industry, says Jay Witter. 

“We’ve been strategizing with McMorris Rodgers,” said Witter, senior vice president of public policy for AAHomecare. “We’re starting out with a letter giving CMS the opportunity to make the change, then (we’ll) pivot.” 

The letter closes Oct. 5. At press time, it had 16 co-signers. 

If CMS doesn’t respond to the letter, stakeholders will push quickly to get legislation introduced, says Tom Ryan. 

“I would think we can get something moving before the end of the year, but let’s close the letter out first,” said Ryan, president and CEO of AAHomecare. “We’ve got a perfect storm out there – the challenges are very concerning to everyone. We continue to work the grassroots and get the message out.” 

The letter was the major ask of the 140-plus industry representatives, including providers, manufacturers and distributors, that held 250 meetings with lawmakers’ offices during the daylong event on Sept. 29. 

In a video addressing conference attendees, McMorris Rodgers emphasized the importance of adjusting payment rates to ensuring access to HME. 

“For seniors, people with disabilities and people with chronic medical conditions, access to durable medical equipment is fundamental but this equipment cannot save lives if it isn’t available to those who need it most, especially in rural communities where we know barriers to access already exist,” she said. “We have a lot of work ahead of us to on improving access and quality of health care across the country.” 

While the industry’s base message – fix reimbursement – remains much the same as it has for the past few years, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic added urgency to this year’s conference, and attendees made sure to push that message. 

“We are strongly urging Congress to re-evaluate reimbursement,” said Bill Guidetti, president, Eastern Division, Apria. “The increased costs at this time have spiraled out of control. A container from Asia was $1,500. Today, it’s $20,000, a 1,233% increase. I think, because of the pandemic, it has bought attention to our industry and people have better appreciation for (what we do).”


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