WASHINGTON, DC – Budget politics are a particularly murky process in our Congress. For months, both the House and Senate have been talking about finally passing legislation to fix the sustainable growth rate (SGR) methodology used to pay physicians who treat Medicare patients. Even the talking heads agreed that a number of factors were aligning to make this a good opportunity to get it done.
A permanent SGR fix, or “doc fix,” is important to the HME industry because it is legislation that focuses on correcting problems with Medicare, and it has a good chance of passing. We want to fix Medicare’s outrageously mismanaged bidding program, so our request to be added to the legislation makes sense to members of Congress.
However, last week the deal fell apart. Why? It’s hard to say precisely, but there appears to have been a mini-revolt by some members of the House who didn’t get what they wanted in the SGR legislation. As a result, another patch has been cobbled together, which is a classic “good news/bad news” situation for HME businesses.
Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. The SGR bill released by the Senate Finance Committee included place-holder language for bidding program fixes, but the patch does not. This means that we’ll be looking at other legislation that can help us.
The good news is that HME wasn’t targeted to pay for the patch, as has happened in years past. AAHomecare spent a lot of time on Capitol Hill talking to members of Congress to make sure that they understood that we’ve given as much as we can and that we need some relief.
More good news is the fact that our own legislation, HR 1717, has 171 cosponsors. The House has 435 members; we are pushing hard to cross the 50% threshold, which would be 218 cosponsors. Although the bill may not be able to pass on its own, proving that the majority of House members support it makes adding the bill’s provisions to other legislation much more easy.
As with so many other parts of our lives, progress on fixing the bidding program sometimes feels like doing the cha-cha: two steps forward and one step backward. Yet, that’s precisely why there’s hope. We’re still moving forward, even if it’s one step at a time.
Julie Driver is senior manager, Communications and Marketing, American Association for Homecare.