New Biding Bids Bills Launched in House, Senate

Crunch time is on for providers, associations to lobby for new legislation in run-up to Round Two re-compete.

The last legislative push to reform competitive bidding might have lapsed with the 113th Congress, but that didn’t stop lawmakers and industry advocates from springing into action with the 114th. Legislation to remove the “suicide bidding” element of competitive bidding has been launched in both the House and the Senate this week. Now providers and the industry associations must move to back the legislation in the run-up to the Round Two re-compete.

Reps. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio) and John Larson (D-Conn.), both members of the House Ways and Means Committee have launched H.R. 284, and Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.), both members of the Senate Finance Committee have introduced S. 148 into their respective chambers of Congress. Together, the companion pieces of legislation are known as the Medicare Competitive Bidding Improvement Act (MCBIA).

“Right now, suicide bids have plagued the DME bid process,” Tiberi said. “Requiring binding bids would insert accountability into the bid process, help seniors access high-quality equipment and services, and improve health outcomes.”

“A fair bidding process will improve both access and quality of medical equipment that Medicare beneficiaries across the nation depend on,” Larson said. “I am pleased to join my colleagues in reintroducing this commonsense legislation and remain committed to improving access and quality of healthcare for the American people.” 

Like the industry’s legislation from last session the MCBIA aims to make all bids binding via surety bonds, and they also require proof of necessary state-level licensure or certification for the next rounds of bidding. Both requirements are intended to remove speculative bids and the companies that place those bids from the process. The Act has three main provisions:

  • Providers must prove licensure before they submit bids.
  • Bidders would be required to obtain a surety bond for their bids.
  • Bonds could be forfeited if the contract is declined at or above the bid price.

 

Race Against Time

The legislation states that once passed, CMS must incorporate the requirements into the competitive bid program with the re-compete of Round Two and all iterations of the program going forward. So the goal is to get the legislation passed in the run-up to the Round Two re-compete. Bidding for the re-compete begins Jan. 22 and ends March 25, with CMS announcing the bid amounts in Winter 2016 and the bid winners in Spring 2016.

This means the industry must push for a vote — quick. However, while the turnaround might seem tight, the nature of the bills makes them easy to push through the process, according to ay Witter, vice president of Government Affairs for AAHomecare.

“We’re in an extreme time crunch,” Witter said. “There is some time now. … These bills are non-controversial and there is no cost associated with them. So we are trying to get them through the expedited consideration of getting on the suspension calendar in the House and getting unanimous consent in the Senate.”

Both those processes take bills that have bi-partisan support, and are essentially “easy” votes, and move them through the respective legislative processes in order to quickly bring them to a vote.

The key is for providers to make that happen. AAHomecare President and CEO said that his association, state associations and industry organizations such as the VGM Group are working around the clock on behalf of the legislation, but that all providers in the industry must quickly move to lobby their lawmakers to co-sponsor the legislation in order to get it passed.

Grass roots lobbying is critical, he explained. Providers must call, email and meet with lawmakers — whatever they can manage — to support the bill.

“I’ll paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt, don’t be the ‘cold and timid soul’ that stands on the sidelines,’” Ryan said. “Get in the arena, get your face bloody, and get in the game. We need everybody — it’s all hands on deck.”

“The more co-sponsors we get as soon as possible, the more [leaders on key committees of jurisdiction] have a sense of urgency,” Witter added.  (Those key committees are Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce in the House and the Senate Finance Committee.)

To help owners, management and employees of HME provider businesses lobby on behalf of the legislation, AAHomecare is providing online resources as action.aahomecare.org to help them reach lawmakers.

“This is such a time-sensitive issue,” Witter stressed. “This is not a six-month effort where we can wait for recesses. This is a matter of weeks in which we’re trying to get this passed.”

“This is your industry,” Ryan said. “It’s a call to arms.”

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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