WASHINGTON, DC – Hundreds of meetings on Capitol Hill by AAHomecare members, thousands of emails and calls from HME advocates across the country to Congressional offices, a calendar filled with district-based meetings and site visits during recess periods, and the engaged support and leadership from state and regional associations brought us very close to a meaningful fix for the competitive bidding program in the 113th Congress.
AAHomecare staff and other advocates for our industry were in discussions with Congressional leadership offices until the final hours of consideration of year-end budget legislation, but ultimately, these efforts fell short, partially on account of last-moment cost questions from the Congressional Budget Office.
While this is a disappointing result in the wake of the unprecedented effort the HME community has brought to this fight in 2014, it’s clear that we have made significant gains in raising the profile of this issue on Capitol Hill and built up great credibility with Congressional leaders and influential committee staffers, as well.
“I’ve never seen this amount of pressure on the Hill for HME,” said Mal Mixon, chairman of the Board of Invacare Corp. “Never before have we had so many champions in Congress and such a high level of awareness about our issues. We can’t stop pressing, because it is at moments like this when the tide can turn.”
The strong bipartisan support generated for H.R. 4920, as well as the recent introduction of Senate companion legislation in the final weeks of the legislative session, sets the stage for fresh action on the bidding issue when the next Congress convenes in January.
AAHomecare has received encouraging signals from key legislators that there will be opportunities for similar legislation in 2015, and we will push to have new bidding bills introduced as soon as we can. With the recent release of the Round 2 Recompete Schedule, with registration starting tomorrow, December 18, and bids due in late March of 2015, the urgency to rein in this badly-designed program has never been stronger.
While it’s understandable that many in our industry are frustrated by coming so close to securing meaningful fixes to the bidding program, HME advocates need to be ready to take up the fight to fix the bidding program again in the coming year, and to also support a host of other legislative and regulatory initiatives next year on audits, prior authorization, and a separate benefit for power mobility.
While the year is coming to an end, the fight to fix the bidding program to produce a functional and transparent pricing system, and to address other regulatory requirements that stand between suppliers and patients, will continue until we secure much-needed wins for HME.