Observation Deck

Fight for the Future of HME

The May 20-21 Washington Legislative Conference gives HME professionals a chance to back several key industry initiatives in person on Capitol Hill.

The American Association for Homecare advocates for fair treatment for the HME community by working to bring about a less burdensome audit regime; modifying the bidding program to produce a functional and transparent pricing system; and narrowing the gulf of requirements and procedures that stands between suppliers and patients. HME will only continue to grow as a political force as AAHomecare strengthens ties with the lawmakers and regulators that have a direct impact on your business interests. When policymakers draft bills, or when CMS proposes a regulation, we make sure that the industry is heard loud and clear and that our experience and expertise is a part of the decision-making process.

Our team of lobbyists and regulatory affairs professionals, working in concert with leaders at member companies and coalition partners, has made terrific progress establishing relationships and building credibility with key Senate and House members and staff. Their hard work has built serious momentum that we are leveraging by aggressively communicating our issues to Congressional leadership, CMS, the media and the industry as a whole.

The Latest Developments

The most recent breakthrough has been with H.R.284, the House of Representatives’ half of the Medicare Competitive Bidding Improvement Act (MCBIA), which was just passed by the House (see “News Trends & Analysis,” page 8, to read more). The bill requires bidders to obtain surety bonds that would force contract winners to live up to the amounts they bid in the program. This news is thrilling; it marks the furthest the industry has gone in reforming the competitive bidding program, and it happened because it had such strong bipartisan support, and was so non-controversial, that it was passed by unanimous voice vote.

These advances mark an incredible shift. We’ve gone from the frustration of a few years ago, when some in Congress actually criticized the industry in meetings and hearing, to a key reform being passed by unanimous voice vote. That’s a considerable accomplishment. Things are falling into place, and that fact is being felt in the industry.

But we are not at the finish line, yet. There is still work to be done. Now the industry must focus its attention on S.148, the Senate’s Half of the MCBIA, which was introduced into the upper chamber by Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.), both members of the Senate Finance Committee. And once the bill passes through the Senate, we still need to get a signature from the White House. And S.148 marks only one item on the industry’s agenda.

Your Turn to Get Involved

Now we need your help to consolidate these gains and deliver lasting policy changes that will make for a better business climate for HME.

I would like to invite home medical equipment professionals everywhere to join hundreds of their peers at this year’s AAHomecare Washington Legislative Conference, May 20-21, at the Washington Court Hotel, located on the Senate side of Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Your participation in the conference provides the “boots on the ground” we need to make the case for better HME policies to Members of Congress and their staffers.

This year’s conference is especially critical given the broad set of legislative issues we’ll be covering on Capitol Hill this year, including:

Audit Reform — We will work to reintroduce a version of last year’s AIR Act, the most significant HME audit reform legislation introduced on Capitol Hill in recent memory.

Prior Authorization — We need your help to advocate for legislation to create a prior approval process for HME that exempts suppliers from audits if they receive prior approval, and develop legislation to make the power mobility prior authorization demo project permanent and nationwide.

Complex Rehab Separate Benefit — We will work to support coalition efforts to reintroduce legislation that would make complex rehab a separate benefit under Medicare.

Competitive Bidding — We will build support for current binding bid bills (S. 184 and H.R. 248) and advocate for inclusion of language from these bills in other potential legislative vehicles.

AAHomecare staff will provide you with background briefings on these issues, as well as advice on how to effectively make your case to legislators and staff, on the first day of the conference, and will make appointments for you on Capitol Hill for Thursday. We will also provide issue summaries for you to leave behind at your appointments.

While the idea of meeting with Senators and House Members might seem intimidating to some, please be assured that you’re not expected to be an “expert” on every aspect of these issues. Capitol Hill audiences (with rare exceptions), aren’t looking for a debate, but rather for your insight on how Medicare policies and procedures are affecting you and the patients you serve, and how they can be improved. You might not be an expert on every aspect of the audit process, for example, but you can still shed light as to how an overzealous audit regime has caused your business unnecessary effort and expense.

The Value of Relationships

I can’t overstate the importance of personal, face-to-face meetings on Capitol Hill in aiding our legislative efforts. These meetings help us boost co-sponsorship figures on priority legislation, and have helped us identify and build important relationships with House and Senate members who have become strong advocates for HME.

If you are looking to broaden your horizons and get involved in HME advocacy efforts, the AAHomecare Washington Legislative Conference makes for a great introduction. Please see aahomecare.org for registration details, or email Gordon Barnes, who handles the Capitol Hill appointment process, at gordonb@aahomecare.org with any questions about the conference.

I look forward to welcoming you into the ranks of dedicated HME advocates at the Legislative Conference. Join us on Capitol Hill and fight for the future of HME!

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

About the Author

Tom Ryan is president and CEO of the American Association for Homecare (AAHomecare.org). Prior to assuming that role in 2013, he spent 25 years as the president and CEO of Homecare Concepts, a Farmingdale, N.Y.-based respiratory company that he had founded. Follow Tom on Twitter @TomRyanHME.

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