Bidding Relief Bill Launched in Senate

Sens. Thune and Heitkamp introduce Patient Access to Durable Medical Equipment Act.

Legislation to delay deeper cuts due to the national expansion of competitive bidding has debuted in the Senate, and companion legislation is expected to debut in the House of Representatives, according to the American Association for Homecare.

are Senators John Thune (R-S.D.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) introduced S. 2736, the Patient Access to Durable Medical Equipment Act, into the upper chamber late last week. Specifically, the bipartisan, budget neutral bill would implement the following:

  • Delay the second phase of bid expansion, which fully implements the bidding-derived rates, by 15 months. This would push back the full cuts from July 1 until at least Oct. 1, 2017.
  • Prohibit CMS from using single price amounts from the previous round of bidding as the ceiling for future bid rounds. Instead CMS would be required to preserve the bid ceiling at the unadjusted fee schedule rates from Jan. 1, 2015
  • Require CMS to solicit stakeholder input and consider travel costs, volume, and clearing price, as well as the numbers of providers serving bid areas, when setting rates for Jan. 2019 and beyond.
  • Require CMS to monitor and provide monthly updates on its website on Medicare beneficiaries’ access to HME and their health outcomes related to HME.
  • Advance the start date of the federal portion of Medicaid reimbursement mirroring Medicare rates by three months, from calendar year 2019 to fiscal year 2019. This would push the start date from Jan. 1, 2019 to Oct 1, 2018.

“We applaud Senator Thune and Senator Heitkamp for their tireless efforts on behalf of home medical equipment suppliers and the millions of patients they serve,” said AAHomecare President and CEO Tom Ryan in a public statement. “This new legislation will give Congress and CMS a chance to see the damaging effects of the January 1 round of cuts for rural and non-bid suppliers before even lower prices are thrust upon an already-reeling industry.”

“Accessing medically necessary equipment should be just as easy for someone living in a rural state like South Dakota as it is for anyone else living in the United States, which is why passing this legislation is so important,” Thune said. “Doing so would make it far easier for the federal government to properly implement this program to ensure anyone, no matter where he or she lives, can have access to these important health care products.”

“For seniors throughout the country, including in rural areas like North Dakota, access to critical medical equipment like hospital beds, walkers, and oxygen supplies shouldn’t be a question,” Heitkamp added. “All seniors should be able to live with dignity and the support they need. Our bipartisan bill will enable a smoother transition for this program so North Dakota seniors continue to have access to needed medical equipment, without any interruptions.”

Additional co-sponsors at the bill’s introduction include:

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.)
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.)
Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.)
Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho)
Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.)
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa)
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii)
Sen. Angus King (I-Maine
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.)
Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.)
Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.)
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.)

Companion legislation is expected to be introduced in the House of Representatives as early as this week, according to AAHomecare, which had reported earlier this month that it had been working with Rep. Tom Price (R. Ga.) on a bill for the lower chamber.  The association urged providers and industry advocates to lobby their Senators on behalf o S.2736.

About the Author

David Kopf is the Publisher HME Business, DME Pharmacy and Mobility Management magazines. He was Executive Editor of HME Business and DME Pharmacy from 2008 to 2023. Follow him on LinkedIn at and on Twitter at @postacutenews.

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