Audit, Binding Bids Bills Continue Momentum

Industry legislative efforts pick up more co-sponsors as industry intensifies lobbying during recess.

Two pieces of industry legislation designed to reform CMS’s audit program and fix a key problem with competitive bidding have garnered additional support, as congress goes into recess for August and providers and industry advocates gear up to lobby hard on their behalf.

H.R. 5083, known as the Audit Improvement and Reform Act (aka, the AIR Act), was unveiled in July by Reps. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) and John Barrow (D-Ga.). The bill aims to address key problems with Medicare’s unchecked audit system by boosting transparency within the program; providing better education and outreach; and rewarding suppliers that have low error rates on audited claims.

The bill picked up six new backers, bringing its total of co-sponsors to 14. The new backers are:

  • Rep. Timothy Bishop (N.Y.)
  • Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.)
  • Rep. Peter King (N.Y.)
  • Rep. David Loebsack (Iowa)
  • Rep. Billy Long (Mo.)
  • Rep. Mike McIntyre (N.C.)

Meanwhile, H.R. 4920, known as the binding bids bill, would make all bids binding and would require providers to obtain bonds before bidding. This would eradicate the practice of suicide bidding that has ravaged the industry. Reps. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio) and John Larson (D-Conn.) introduced the legislation in late June. 

The bill picked up five additional co-sponsors since last week, bringing its total number of backers to 29 Representatives. The new H.R. 4920 co-sponsors are:

  • Rep. Timothy Bishop (N.Y.)
  • Rep. Joe Courtney (Conn.)
  • Rep. Randy Forbes (Va.)
  • Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii)
  • Rep. David Loebsack (Iowa)

Getting providers to contact their lawmakers on behalf of the legislation during August recess is particularly important, given the time constraints the industry is working under. This is important, because the 113th Congress has until the next election. Time is tight, but the bill’s limited scope and overall political neutrality give it a good chance, explained Seth Johnson, vice president of government affairs for Pride Mobility Products Corp. 

“This [H.R. 4920] is going to be a piece of legislation that’s going to get lobbied hard during the August recess, period, in order to put us in the best possible position for advancement this year,” Johnson said.

Successfully picking up co-sponsors could bring the binding bids bill up for a vote as a standalone bill, based on rules that help congress put non-controversial bills on what is called the suspension calendar. Those can be voted very quickly through the process. 

“So H.R. 4920 could move as a standalone piece of legislation,” said Jay Witter, vice president of government affairs for the American Association for Homecare. “With that said, you have to get the committees of jurisdiction to sign off. Well, that’s kind of already happened. Congressman Tiberi has gone to the Energy and Commerce Ways and Means committee chairs about this bill and got their sign-off. He’s also talked with Speaker Boehner from Ohio about this as well, and he was supportive of the process. So there is a distinct possibility this is going to be able to move on its own.

“We’re being told that since the bill is bi-partisan and non controversial that the likelihood of it being moved as a stand-alone piece of legislation and being voice voted is quite high,” he added. “That’s a good position to be in given the challenges the calendar presents at this point in the process.”

To learn more about the industry’s current legislative strategy and how you can help, read our August feature, “New Ideas: Rethinking the fight against competitive bidding.”

About the Author

David Kopf is the Publisher and Executive Editor of HME Business and DME Pharmacy magazines. Follow him on Twitter at @postacutenews.

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