Bidding Fight Shifts to Lame Duck Strategy

AAHomecare, advocates focus legislative efforts on Congressional session beginning after November elections.

With the industry’s attempts during September to advance some form of legislative reform to national bid expansion having come to a close, the industry is now focusing its attention on November to restart the process.

After two near misses at achieving such a reform prior to the summer Congressional recess, September looked like a possible opportunity to convince lawmakers to reform the full reimbursement cuts that have been plaguing rural providers and their patients in particular since the cuts’ July 1 implementation. However, lawmakers have left Capitol Hill to focus on their reelection efforts.

But they will return after the November elections for the remaining lame duck session of Congress. American Association for Homecare President and CEO Tom Ryan says that will afford the industry another opportunity to try and achieve rural bid reform.

“In recent discussions, our champions on Capitol Hill and staffers on important committees have demonstrated continued strong interest in getting legislation passed that will roll back the July 1 cuts,” Ryan said. “In addition, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) has said that he plans on seeing this issue addressed during the lame duck session.”

Bearing that in mind, Ryan called on providers to make a concerted effort to get behind efforts by the industry’s associations, legislative experts and advocates and do the grassroots lobbying that will be required to convince lawmakers to come together and pass the bill — and that’s been a problem. Twice the industry came very close to passing bid reforms, but differences between House and Senate versions, as well as unpredictable circumstances (including a Congressional sit-in) ultimately stymied the bills. Ryan said the industry must continue that work.

“Persistent and passionate efforts of HME providers over the past eighteen months have brought us to a point where we’re close to getting competitive bidding rural relief legislation passed — but, as we’ve seen before, those last few yards needed to get the House and Senate to agree on a single bill are not likely to come easily,” he said. “Now I’m asking the HME community to lay it all on the line to make sure we get a bill passed in the weeks ahead.”

Moreover, depending on how the election plays out, the lame duck session might be the industry’s last best hope to protect rural patients and providers.

“If we don’t get a bill passed by the end of the year, prospects for legislative action on this issue will almost certainly be more challenging when the new Congress convenes in January,” Ryan explained, adding that providers shouldn’t wait to start lobbying, and should take advantage of the election season recess to make their case. 

“With the House and Senate recessed through the elections, some people might be inclined to think that this is a period where your efforts aren’t needed right now, but that’s not the case,” he said. “In fact, this is one of the best times to try and reach out to a staffer who handles healthcare issues in a Congressional office, as their schedules are not taken up with staffing hearings or monitoring current legislative proceedings.”

Ryan added that providers must shake off the frustration that he has shared, and keep focused on the legislative effort, if they want to see some success in reforming national bid expansion.

“Let’s make those frustrations a distant memory by redoubling our efforts to ensure that the last 18 months of hard work that we have all put forth on this issue is rewarded with a win that benefits the entire HME community and the people we serve,” he reminded. “I know that many of you have personally put a lot of time, effort, and resources into this fight, but the time for our strongest push is at hand. Let’s give it all we’ve got until we prevail.”

About the Author

David Kopf is the Publisher and Executive Editor of HME Business and DME Pharmacy magazines. Follow him on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/dkopf/ and on Twitter at @postacutenews.

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