Budget Agreement: HME's Fate Remains Uncertain

Medicare cuts are still on the table for joint congressional panel that must outline $1.5T more in cuts.

After weeks of debate that nearly (and some say unnecessarily) brought the country to the brink of default, Tuesday's final budget and debt-ceiling agreement approved by Congress and signed into law by President Obama could also mean more funding trouble for the HME industry.

For the moment, Medicare funding is safe; being spared from the $900 billion cuts the agreement implements over the next 10 years. However, because the budget still leaves a $1.5 trillion deficit, a joint House-Senate committee must identify additional cuts to cover that $1.5 trillion gap by Thanksgiving, and then Congress much approve those cuts by December 23. And, much like Tom Turkey or a Christmas goose, Medicare could be on the chopping block.

To make matters worse, is that Congress has until the end of the year to cover physicians' funding, the American Association for Homecare pointed out in a public statement.

“Multiplying this challenge is the end-of-December expiration of the temporary patch to the physicians’ sustainable growth rate mechanism (SGR), or doc fix,” AAHomecare wrote. “What that means is Congress must find about $25 billion to pay for a one-year delay in the automatic Medicare reimbursement cut for doctors, which is required by law under the SGR. And the home medical equipment sector, along with hospitals, home health agencies, and many other healthcare groups, will face even greater threats of Medicare cuts as Congress scrambles to find the $25 billion offset to pay for the delay.”

The association urged providers to leverage the August congressional recess to demonstrate that HME is a cost-effective role solution for Medicare and healthcare; that the industry has been cut “repeatedly and disproportionately” during the past seven years; and that the nation's budget problems can't be solved by future cuts to HME. AAHomecare noted that providers can use its online Take Action Center's resources to work with lawmakers.

About the Author

David Kopf is the Editor of HME Business.

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