Editor's Note

The Tip of the Spear

Competitive bidding's negative impacts are all too real, and strong reason to keep fighting.

Editors can often find themselves trapped in a world of words, where reality doesn’t quite feel as real as it should. Those little black-and-white pixels in the Microsoft Word window are as definitive as they can be, but the full import of the words that get typed doesn’t get felt as strongly as it sometimes should.

That’s why it’s important for editors to keep in touch with the people for whom they are writing. In my case, I try to maintain regular dialog with HME providers. I seek HME professionals out as expert sources; I try to survey them as often as I can (bearing that in mind, read the results of our latest sleep survey, and our provider poll on ICD-10 readiness); and I rely on providers as key members of HMEB’s editorial advisory board. Moreover, I try to get HME owners and operators to write columns for our magazine as often as I can.

One of those columns was our December Observation Deck piece, which was written by John Eberhart, who is the president of Eberhart Home Health Inc. in Farmington, N.M. John’s piece, “The Price of Keeping the Doors Open,” was a tough read. In it, he recounted in great detail the professional and very personal sacrifices he has made to keep his business running in the era of competitive bidding. Despite John’s careful words and good nature, the story wasn’t pretty, and would choke up even the most grizzled, jaded industry veteran.

But for John’s honest recounting of the ugly reality of competitive bidding, what was surprising was the response it received. Providers across the country and across the industry emailed John multiple supportive message that not only sympathized with his frustrating experience, but that also recounted their own exasperating competitive bidding experiences. Some of the responses John received from other providers were even sadder and more maddening than his. For instance, while John took tough hits to keep his doors open, some of those respondents had pulled out of Medicare reimbursement altogether, or worse, shuttered their businesses.

That is the tip of the spear; the sharp end of competitive bidding: small businesses dedicated to providing healthcare services to Medicare beneficiaries are going through hell, or worse, because of a flawed implementation of a flawed public policy. Worse yet, when those businesses shut their doors, their patients suffer immensely. That is where Medicare cuts run their deepest, and that is exactly why this industry needs to keep fighting to reform CMS’s flawed competitive bidding program.

The Time to Fight is N-O-W

And we have a golden opportunity to do that. The American Association for Homecare and the industry’s legislative experts have worked with lawmakers to launch competitive bidding reform bills in the House and the Senate at the very beginning of the 114th Congress. For anyone who’s been paying attention for the last several years, that’s a big win — the industry has never been able to introduce companion legislation in both chambers of Congress.

Together, the two bills, H.R. 284 and S. 148, are named the Medicare Competitive Bidding Improvement Act, and they are designed to remove suicide bidding from competitive bidding by requiring bid bonds.

We all need to support these bills — now. With the re-compete of Round Two already underway the industry is in a race against the clock to rack up enough co-sponsors for both bills so that they are put to a vote in weeks; not months. Now is the time to for all of us to start emailing, calling, and meeting with our Senators and your Representative on behalf of these two bills, because if we don’t, then we’re sure to feel the sharp end of CMS’s spear once again.

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

About the Author

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

HME Business Podcast