Tanner, Hobson Encourage Providers to Get Involved

Best known as co-sponsors of House legislation that would modify national competitive bidding, Reps. David Hobson (R-Ohio) and John Tanner (D-Tenn.) kicked off Medtrade show in Orlando, Fla. Although unable to be there in person, the congressmen taped their remarks that were played during a breakfast meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 2.

Hobson cited his experience working on health care issues and expressed his concern about helping Medicare beneficiaries retain access to the equipment they need.

“In its current form,” Hobson said, “[competitive bidding] will exclude thousands of durable medical equipment providers from participating in Medicare, even if they agree to the new payment rates . . . Our bill does many things, but most importantly, it allows qualified DME providers to participate in Medicare and exempts smaller rural areas from this process.”

The Tanner-Hobson bill (H.R. 1845) would allow any willing and qualified provider to supply DME at CMS’ winning bid rates, even if the provider was not deemed a winning bidder or did not submit a bid at all.

Hobson called on suppliers to support the legislation: “We need providers like you to write, call and visit your congressmen and senators. They need to hear first-hand from you how your business and the services you provide to their constituents will be adversely affected by the changes being made by CMS.”

Tanner said he was concerned that competitive bidding will “use the lowest-cost providers without consideration of the quality of the reimbursed items and services provided. I am still concerned about how competitive bidding will affect those living in rural areas.”

He joined Hobson in asked suppliers to talk to their congressional delegations about competitive bidding, as well as about funding cuts for oxygen and the proposed elimination of the first-month purchase option for power wheelchairs.

“Congressman Hobson and I are talking to others about our legislation every day… I am hopeful we can educate our colleagues about the detrimental effects of these provisions on those patients that require oxygen and wheelchairs and eliminate these provisions from future consideration. Please keep up your work for your patients and to improve the home health-care system for the future.”

The keynote events’ hosts were Invacare’s chairman and CEO, Mal Mixon, and the company’s government relations head, Carol Bachenheimer. Mixon underlined Tanner’s and Hobson’s plea for HME suppliers to talk with their representatives and senators. “If there’s one single message we can give: When you go home from this show, go see your congressman. Explain this bill. Ask them to talk to either Dave Hobson or John Tanner to sign onto this bill.”

Bachenheimer emphasized the importance of H.R. 1845’s “any willing provider” provision: “If you’ve talked to your member of Congress, I’m sure you’ve gotten the same reaction: this makes a lot of sense. You can talk about it in terms of consumers’ access — If you have a long-term relationship with a client and you end up not being a ‘winning’ provider, this particular provision would allow you to continue to serve that patient. That’s an argument that a lot of folks on the Hill are sympathetic to, as well.”

H.R. 1845 is also important, Bachenheimer said, because it would require congressional action for the second round of competitive bidding to proceed. “So essentially, Congress would have to come back and literally pass another law before CMS could extend the program.”

This article originally appeared in the November 2007 issue of HME Business.


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