AARC Backs Meek Bill
IRVING, Texas — H.R. 3790, the bill that would stop DMEPOS competitive bidding, has gotten a big boost from the 49,000-member American Association for Respiratory Care, which recently announced its support of the legislation.
In a Nov. 20 letter to Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Fla., author of the bill, AARC President Timothy R. Myers, BS, RRT-NPS, wrote:
"The AARC and our members are very much aware of the struggles many of our pulmonary home care patients are having in receiving the full range of Medicare services for which they are eligible and which they desperately need. Constant changes in Medicare coverage policy for durable medical equipment, such as the 36-month cap on oxygen rental and the impending implementation of the competitive bid program, have had a negative impact on the pulmonary patient's ambulatory care.
"H.R. 3790 will repeal the competitive bid program and include provisions that will assure the budget neutrality through other payment reductions," the letter continued. "The AARC believes your legislation is good for the patient, a sound Medicare policy and is fiscally responsible."
The bill's proponents said the AARC's support is heartening.
"The more we work together with the common associations, the better off we are and the bigger voice we have. And we need a bigger voice," said Rose Schafhauser, executive director of the Midwest Association for Medical Equipment Services. "We'll never get it done by ourselves."
The American Association for Homecare also applauded AARC's support, saying it "underscores the severe clinical implications of providing home care to Medicare beneficiaries based on a lowest-cost bidding system that not only drives a race-to-the-bottom approach to serving seniors, but also eliminates most of the competitors who currently compete on the basis of service and quality."
Stakeholders are hopeful that AARC's backing will help boost the number of cosponsors for the Meek bill. As of Wednesday (Dec. 2), H.R. 3790 had officially garnered 75 cosponsors, though the unofficial count was as high as 83.
"We've been making great progress and the momentum continues," said Barry Johnson, president of the Texas Alliance for Homecare Services. "It may have been on hold for the Thanksgiving holiday, but we are going to pick right back up. It's more of an education process than anything to tell people about this rebid — even providers outside of Round 1 areas aren't sure how it will affect them — and education takes time."
Some on the legislative end of the industry are pushing to get the bill into Congress' health reform package. To do that, they are aiming for 218 cosponsors in the House and are also campaigning to drum up verbal support from at least 50 senators by the first week in January, which would send a message that competitive bidding is an important issue and its elimination has strong support among legislators.
Washington insiders expect that the final health reform bill will be hammered out in a January-February timeframe.
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