by Tom Ryan
WASHINGTON, DC – Monday’s passage of the Medicare Competitive Bidding Improvement Act (HR 284) by the House of Representatives brings the HME sector closer to securing relief on the competitive bidding issue than I can recall in the decade-plus that we’ve been pushing back against this poorly-designed program. While the fight is far from over, I’d like to take this opportunity to reflect on how we’ve gotten here.
I know that many of you have felt as if we would never get to this point, with bidding legislation in the last Congressional session (H.R. 1717 and H.R. 4920) failing to reach full floor consideration on account of competing healthcare legislative priorities and delays by the Congressional Budget Office in scoring our proposals. However, even as these bills did not make their way to a vote, the tireless efforts of AAHomecare members and other leading stakeholders in the HME community on behalf of them helped change hearts and minds on Capitol Hill.
How far we’ve come on this issue is evidenced by both the bill’s unanimous passage by the Ways & Means Committee last month, and by the fact that the House passed the bill by a voice vote on Monday, indicating broad, bipartisan support for the legislation. This is a far cry from the skepticism that our efforts to fix the bidding program were met with just a few years ago, as well as pointed criticism of our industry by some Congressional offices.
Your personal contacts with your Congressional representatives have made a major impact here.
Whether through the AAHomecare Legislative Conference, or other DC “fly-ins” led by state associations or by industry leaders like VGM or the MED Group, or your own visits to district offices or local events, your passion and professionalism in lobbying your legislators is why we have finally reached this juncture. Credit is also due to the individuals among you who utilized and promoted AAHomecare’s Action Center and the Save My Medical Supplies campaign, helping to generate thousands of emails to Capitol Hill calling for a fix to the bidding program.
While Monday’s House action is worth celebrating, we still need Senate action on S. 148, binding bid legislation similar to the just-passed House version. We encourage you to ask your Senators to join the current list of co-sponsors: Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Ben Cardin (D-MD), principal sponsors – Sens. John Hoeven (R-ND), Robert Casey (R-PA), Michael Bennett (D-CO), Charles Grassley (R-IA), and Cory Gardner (R-CO). Please follow up with staff you have previously met with in DC, or email Gordon Barnes (firstname.lastname@example.org) to identify the appropriate staffer to contact, and take a look at our issue brief on binding bids legislation to help you in your messaging.
Finally, I’d like to assure you that enactment of these binding bid bills will not signal the end of our efforts on the competitive bidding front. Even with stronger mechanisms to ensure licensure and commitment by winning bidders, proposed drastic bidding-derived reimbursement cuts proposed for non-bidding areas will affect a great many HME suppliers. We won’t rest until the program ensures proper access to equipment needed by homecare patients and provides a fair playing field for HME suppliers nationwide.
Paralympian Bert Burns Will Appear at AAHomecare’s Stand Up For Homecare at Medtrade Spring
LAS VEGAS – Bert will share his story as a quadriplegic, clinician and experience as a successful HME owner as he explains why everyone needs to advocate for a better Medicare. Like Bert, nearly 1/2-million people with spinal cord injury across the US are being hurt by Medicare reform mistakes.
When you attend or donate to Stand Up for Homecare, you are endorsing AAHomecare efforts to promote a positive image of the home medical equipment industry through initiatives such as Save My Medical Supplies, raise public awareness of homecare’s many benefits, and support consumer advocacy groups like the American Association of People with Disabilities, the United Spinal Association, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and the National Council on Independent Living.
Click here to register for Stand Up for Homecare.