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Lawmakers pressure CMS on licensure issues

Lawmakers pressure CMS on licensure issues

WASHINGTON - Amid growing concerns on Capitol Hill, CMS officials have been asked to report to Senate staff on Round 2 of competitive bidding at a briefing on Tuesday.

“The pressure's on,” said Jay Witter, vice president of government affairs for AAHomecare. “The licensure issue is one that CMS has not been able to answer.”

The Maryland Office of Healthcare Quality confirmed recently that there are more than 100 contract suppliers that don't meet licensure requirements in the state. Other states that have reported similar issues include Tennessee, Michigan and Ohio.

Ohio lawmakers expressed their concerns on the issue in two separate letters to CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner last week. A “Dear Colleague” letter by Reps. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., and Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, asking CMS to delay the July 1 start date of Round 2 has garnered 206 signatures.

“The collective points of all of this activity is a mounting concern from Congress to CMS focusing on the licensing issue,” said Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare. “They are basically saying, 'What is going on? How does this happen?'”

Congress has called CMS on the carpet before with regard to competitive bidding, but so far, it has given the agency the benefit of the doubt. That's changing, say stakeholders.

“There's a point where you can sweep things under the rug,” said Witter. “But, there will be a point where there's so much evidence, that benefit of the doubt will change to doubt and then they will start really pressing CMS for change.”

With the start date of Round 2 just a few weeks away, time is of the essence. Stakeholders say it's important to ratchet up the noise level on the need for a delay and H.R. 1717, a bill to replace competitive bidding with a market-pricing program (MPP). Introduced April 24 by Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., it has 115 cosponsors.

“Congress and Medicare wait till things get hot and it is always the hottest the closest you get to implementation,” said Seth Johnson, vice president of government relations for Pride. “The ultimate goal is to fix this program.”


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