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Walk the talk

Walk the talk

There’s been a lot of talk about the increased appreciation for home care due to the COVID-19 

And now we’re seeing lawmakers walk the talk.

The omnibus bill they passed in December included not one but a handful of provisions that impact the HME industry:

  • An extension of the 75/25 blended Medicare reimbursement rate in non-competitive bidding/non-rural areas through the end of the public health emergency or Dec. 31, 2023, whichever is later.
  • A delay of the 4% across-the-board Medicare cut for two years.
  • Passage of the Lymphedema Treatment Act, which will require Medicare to pay for compression garments, bandages and supplies to reduce lymphedema-related swelling and prevent recurrence, beginning in January 2024.

When I asked Cara Bachenheimer, who leads the Government Affairs Practice of Brown & Fortunato, if it was unusual to have so many HME-related provisions in a larger bill, she said, “Absolutely.”

Even with so many interests clamoring to be included in the bill, the industry’s reception on the Hill in the weeks leading up to its passage was … different.

“It was like the Battle of Saratoga, the turning point of the Revolutionary War,” said John Gallagher, vice president of government relations for the VGM Group, who has racked up several million miles traveling to lobby for the industry. “I’ve never had a trip to D.C. that way. Everywhere we went, it was, ‘Yes, we have to fix this,” and, 'Yes, we can put that in.’”

That’s not to say, and I’m sure stakeholders will be the first to say it, there’s not more work to be done.

Providers in bid areas are still dealing with reimbursement rates that are several years old and based on a failed and largely stalled program, even while their costs are skyrocketing. Yet, efforts to include a provision in the omnibus bill implementing a 90/10 blended reimbursement rate in these areas failed in December.

With the momentum the industry saw in late 2022, however, 2023 might just be the year the 90/10 rate takes off. Jay Witter, senior vice president of public policy for AAHomecare, told me HME champions are “ready to go” in the 118th Congress.

For now, I’ll take more lawmakers walking the talk about HME any day.


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