Competitive Bidding

H.R. 1041 Introduced to Repeal Competitive Bidding

H.R. 1041, the new bill to repeal DMEPOS competitive bidding, which is called the Fairness in Medicare Bidding Act, was introduced Friday by Reps. Jason Altmire, D-Pa., and Glenn Thompson, R-Pa.

WASHINGTON — Washington legislators will get a strong
message from HME providers attending the American Association for
Homecare Legislative Conference this week: Support H.R. 1041.

The new bill to repeal DMEPOS competitive bidding,
called the Fairness in Medicare Bidding Act, was introduced Friday
by Reps. Jason Altmire, D-Pa., and Glenn Thompson, R-Pa.

"It would be a full repeal and be budget-neutral," said Altmire
press aide Tess Mullen.

The two congressmen, long champions of home care, will discuss
the bill at a Capitol Hill press conference tomorrow morning.
Altmire will further detail the bill in his scheduled speech at the
AAHomecare conference on Wednesday, Mullen said.

The news comes just as providers are headed to the Hill on
Thursday to talk to their legislators about competitive
bidding.

"When [conference attendees] meet with representatives, they can
direct them toward the bill we have introduced and highlight why it
is really important to support the legislation into law," Mullen
said.

"I think it is important to Congressman Altmire that the people
attending the legislative conference are articulate about how this
program is affecting them and the patients on the ground," she
noted. "It does impact patients who rely on this equipment to live
independently every day."

Friday's announcement got a jubilant reception from AAHomecare
officials, whose goal was to get a repeal bill introduced in time
for the association's annual lobbying event.

"The American Association for Homecare and the Pennsylvania
Association of Medical Suppliers, as well as a number of providers
and manufacturers in Pennsylvania, have been working with the two
congressmen over the past several months in sharing our concerns
about competitive bidding and the harmful consequences the program
poses to providers and beneficiaries of home care," President Tyler
Wilson said in a statement late Friday. "We're pleased to see the
congressmen taking action and we look forward to their press
conference on Tuesday."

Stakeholders said they are hoping for even greater support than
that generated for a repeal bill last year.
H.R. 3790
garnered 259 co-sponsors but never made it out of
committee or picked up a Senate companion. Two weeks ago, however,
Altmire and Thompson hosted a
standing-room-only briefing
for new legislative aides to bring
them up to speed on competitive bidding. Some 25 staffers were
turned away for lack of room.

Wilson said the 250 or so conference attendees can build on that
foundation by relating their own experiences.

"They [will be] here to tell a story about their business, the
people they employ, the beneficiaries they affect," Wilson
said.

Georgie Blackburn, vice president of government relations for
Tarentum, Pa.-based Blackburn's Pharmacy, plans to do just that.
With the implementation of Round 1 competitive bidding, she said,
"Now we can talk specifics: This is what is happening to our
business and this is what is happening to our patients," she said.
"I can't imagine anyone in Congress not wanting to hear that
story."

Even though Congress is grappling with problems on numerous
fronts, this is a good time for the industry to press its case for
a repeal of the bid program, Blackburn said. "I think the timing is
excellent because we are in the first quarter of competitive
bidding, and we've got real-life instances with our patients [to
share]," she said. "We have data to underscore the need for the
bill."

"People get it," added AAHomecare Vice President Mike Reinemer.
"We just need to push it harder. Now that Round 1 has been
implemented, there are some very real problems with access,
confusion, more costly health care because of the inability to get
into a home setting quicker. In that regard it is a very opportune
time."

Wilson said there is always a list of topics for industry
advocates to discuss with legislators — this year's includes
audits, declining oxygen reimbursement and a separate benefit for
complex rehab — but "there is no greater challenge to the
industry than competitive bidding."

Blackburn, whose company was awarded two Round 1 contracts, one
in enteral nutrition and one in standard power chairs, said
competitive bidding "affects your business the way you thought it
would, but it also affects your business in many ways you didn't
expect."

Because Blackburn's did not get a whole spectrum of contracts,
she said, long-time referral sources have turned to those companies
that did. "I've talked to many providers and this is happening
cross the CBAs," she said. "I think if we go en masse [and tell
that story], that makes a statement."

It could also make a difference.

"If we can sell everyone in Congress that [a repeal] is the
right thing to do and then look at discretionary spending that
would offset the bill — and not necessarily from the HME
sector, which has been whittled down to nothing — I believe
it can happen," Blackburn said.



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