AAHomecare Calls on Providers to Back Bidding Bills

Message from industry association urges providers to contact their lawmakers.

After lawmakers and the industry introduced new bid reform legislation into the House and Senate at the very beginning of the 114th Congress, the push is on to get that industry passed in short order, which means industry groups and associations such as the American Association for Homecare, are calling upon providers to lobby on behalf of the bills.

Reps. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio) and John Larson (D-Conn.), both members of the House Ways and Means Committee introduced H.R. 284, and Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.), both members of the Senate Finance Committee have launched S. 148 into their respective chambers of Congress.

Jointly labeled the Medicare Competitive Bidding Improvement Act, the companion pieces of legislation help reform competitive bidding by requiring that bidders would be required to obtain a surety bond for their bids, and that those bonds could be forfeited if the contract is declined at or above the bid price. In essence this removes suicide bidding from the process.

“This legislation isn’t a fix all, but it will restore some integrity to the process,” said AAHomecare President and CEO Tom Ryan. “The flawed bidding process has set unreasonably low prices that have forced businesses to close and good people to lose their jobs. This must stop. Lawmakers in Congress recognize that changes must be made in the bidding system to prevent their constituents on Medicare from suffering. We have to ensure that some of the most vulnerable people in our society have access to the medical equipment they need.”

While the fact that the industry was able to debut new bills in both chambers at the beginning of a new Congress is a good “win” for homecare, industry advocates are in a bit of a race against the clock.

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.

So providers are being urged to lobby their lawmakers by emailing, calling and scheduling meetings to ensure the bills get solid support in just a few weeks’ time.

“We’re in an extreme time crunch,” said Jay Witter, vice president of Government Affairs for AAHomecare. “… 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 chambers’ expedited processes take bills that have bi-partisan support, and are essentially legislative “slam dunks,” and quickly advance them through the respective legislative processes so that they are put to a vote. In order for that to happen, providers must help AAHomecare, the state associations and other entities such as the VGM Group reach out to their Representatives and Senators. Grass roots lobbying is a pivotal element in the process, according to Ryan.

“We need everybody — it’s all hands on deck,” Ryan said.  “…This is your industry,” Ryan said. “It’s a call to arms.”

“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.”
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.

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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