Editor's Note

Legislation Is a Process

A bill represents much more than a one-time piece of legislation – it's an investment.

Like a lot of people my age, I can belt out the lyrics to “I’m Just a Bill” from ABC television’s Schoolhouse Rock series with the best of them. Sure, I’ll be off-key and people will cringe, but at least I’ll know the lyrics.

Those impossible-to-forget musical interludes that were dropped in between marathon bouts of Saturday morning cartoon watching were usually far more memorable than the cartoons themselves. And I have to give Schoolhouse Rock’s creators a considerable amount of credit for effectively educating my animation-addled brain.

Probably to my elementary school teachers’ shared chagrin, the three-minute “I’m Just a Bill” short did a solid job of giving me a basic understanding of the U.S. legislative process. It outlined how a bill got proposed, how it moved through Congress, and how it ultimately became a law. Boy did I think I knew it all.

However, witnessing first hand the industry’s fight to first stop, then replace, and now reform competitive bidding has been a massive reeducation in that regard. If anything, what I have truly learned is that legislation is a long-term process. I’m glad I learned that lesson, because it keeps me from pulling my hair out when things don’t go the industry’s way on Capitol Hill.

While “I’m Just a Bill” portrays a single bill as he cheerfully works his way through the process in a very linear, optimistic fashion, the reality is totally different. A bill might start as a standalone piece of legislation, but it actually represents two larger concepts: a political agenda and political capital.

When lawmakers and involved citizens work to launch a bill, they are generating legislative language that can live a life beyond just trying to advance that standalone legislation. That language can get attached to a much larger piece of legislation, or it could be boiled into subsequent legislation. In other words it has flexibility to be advanced in multiple ways.

Likewise, the co-sponsors that sign on to back that bill aren’t just offering a one-time signature, they are offering advocacy that can assist the bill in larger ways. They can help attract other lawmakers, speak to the press about the bill, or help advance the bill by attaching it to other legislation.

And most importantly, the ideas presented in a bill and the advocacy it earns can last long beyond the life of that bill. We’ve certainly seen that with competitive bidding legislation. The industry started out trying to stop the program. Then the industry tried to replace bidding with the Market Pricing Program. And now, the industry is working to reform competitive bidding by creating new requirements that ensure bids are binding, which will help bring an end to the low-ball “suicide bidding” that has plagued the program through Rounds One and Two, so far.

And all the while our legislative allies and advocates have worked with the industry to advance that evolving agenda and help re-shape it to the political and legislative realities of the day. Lawmakers understand that bills aren’t one-time shots — they are efforts that require commitment, and often long-term commitment that can last more than one, two-year Congress. Often an enterprise can stretch over multiple Congresses.

That has certainly been the case in the fight against competitive bidding. And that’s why I’m writing the column. I know that some providers might be feeling either a little burned out, frustrated or simply resigned when it comes to this fight. Well don’t feel that way. If you read “Head-on Competitive Bidding Collision” (page 25), Seth Johnson, vice president of government affairs for Pride Mobility Products Corp., makes an important point, “We’ve never been in a better position, based on what we’re hearing from our champions on the Hill.” He’s right. The industry’s Binding Bids legislation could still get passed before the Round Two re-compete starts bidding, and if not, it will ultimate get advanced. We just need to keep working through the process.

This article originally appeared in the January 2015 issue of HME Business.

About the Author

David Kopf is the Publisher HME Business, DME Pharmacy and Mobility Management magazines. He was Executive Editor of HME Business and DME Pharmacy from 2008 to 2023. Follow him on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/dkopf/ and on Twitter at @postacutenews.

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