Competitive Bidding Delay Becomes Law
WASHINGTON — Earlier today, both the House and Senate voted to overturn President Bush's veto of H.R. 6331, the Medicare package that includes a delay of competitive bidding.
The House voted 383 to 41 to override the veto in mid-afternoon. The Senate then took up the debate and voted to overturn the veto by a margin of 70 to 26. With each of the two chambers voting by two-thirds majorities to override the president's veto, the bill becomes law.
Officially titled the "Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008," the legislation delays the DMEPOS competitive bidding program to allow time for critical process improvements and other reforms to bidding and HME policy.
The law also exempts complex rehab from the bid program and repeals the oxygen equipment transfer to beneficiaries mandated under the Deficit Reduction Act.
To offset the savings CMS estimated it would incur from the bidding program, the act calls for a nationwide 9.5 percent reimbursement cut on the items included in round one of bidding.
CMS will now have to rewrite the competitive bidding regulation to incorporate all of the law's specific requirements.
Contacted by HomeCare late last week, CMS said it could not comment on the means the agency would take to stop the program, how it would alert beneficiaries and providers, what delay, if any, providers could expect in reimbursement and how much it will cost to shut down round one.
"Until the bill is enacted into law, we can't answer any of those questions," a CMS spokesperson said.
Now that the bill is law, however, guidance should come soon as the measure requires CMS to suspend provider contracts — implemented July 1 — in the 10 bid areas. According to the American Association for Homecare, CMS is expected to issue an immediate fact sheet on the legislation's impact for providers.
In a message to its members shortly after the Senate vote this evening, AAHomecare said "thank you" to all of the providers, state and regional associations, manufacturers, buying groups, consumer groups, disability organizations and other stakeholders who have worked to accomplish this success for home care providers and patients.
HomeCare adds its congratulations for the industry's outstanding effort on this hard-won legislation.