Industry Dives Into Lame Duck Push

As the 114th Congress returns for its last session, the industry doubles-down on reforming bid expansion in hopes of rural relief.

Now that the 114th Congress has begun its final, lame duck session, HME industry advocates have begun lobbying in earned as part of its final 2016 push to get relief for rural providers via a delay to national bid expansion.

As part of those efforts, the American Association for Homecare reported that its president and CEO Tom Ryan and senior vice president of Government Relations, along with John Gallagher, vice president of VGM Government Relations had several legislative meetings on The Hill this week. The appointments included Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), as well as Reps. Tom Price (R-Ga.), Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-Wash.), Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) and Rod Blum (R-Iowa).

The trio was joined by Thad Connally, CRT, president of Bowling Green, Ky.’s First Choice Medical, for additional meetings with members of the Kentucky delegation, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Sen. Rand Paul, as well as Reps. Hal Rogers (Chairman of the Appropriations Committee), Andy Barr, and Brett Guthrie.

AAHomecare stressed that while the top-level meetings, providers must pick up the phone and get involved in the advocacy push. In fact, the deadline could become tighter. While the lame duck session is slated to run until Dec. 16, the association reports it has heard from Capitol Hill veterans that the session could get truncated to Dec. 9.

Bearing that in mind, the association called on providers to drive home several key message points:

  • The House and Senate must pass legislation to roll back the national bidding expansion cuts so that lawmakers and policy experts can examine and rectify the effects the cuts are having on HME providers and patients.
  • The bid expansion cuts that were fully implemented on July 1 cut reimbursement rates by more than 50 percent for commonly used HME. The cuts are unsustainable for rural HME providers, which are key healthcare entities in small, rural areas that lack the same kinds of healthcare infrastructure found in more urban areas. 
  • The cuts are impacting other programs, such as TRICARE and managed care organizations, which are basing their reimbursement on the now-cut Medicare rates. The sizable cuts are disrupting providers ability to care for patients under those programs.

AAHomecare recommended that the most effective way for providers to drive home their messages was to call their Representative and Senators; ask to speak with their legislative staff member who specializes in healthcare issues; communicate the above items; and call on them to address the issue during the lame duck session. AAHomecare recommended following up the call with an email. 

The association also suggested providers determine if their legislators were co-sponsors of either S.2736 or H.R. 5210, and if so, to thank them for their support and call on them to work together on bicameral legislation during the lame duck that could be presented to President Obama before the end of the lame duck session. 

Providers can reach their lawmakers via the Capitol Hill switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and can get additional contact information via AAHomecare’s Congressional directory at http://action.aahomecare.org/congress/ . 

And the push doesn’t stop with industry insiders; the end user voice is needed. AAHomecare urged providers to also enlist their patients by sharing the People for Quality Care site with them, as well as their family and caregivers in the hopes those key constituents reach out to 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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