AAHomecare Outlines 2017 Advocacy Agenda

Association leader Tom Ryan outlines the various legislative items the organization has begun to focus on in the New Year.

The American Association for Homecare reports it has “hit the ground running” in terms of building on last year’s legislative and regulatory successes and working on legislative action items for 2017. AAHomcare President and CEO Thomas Ryan highlighted several key priorities for the year in a letter to the association’s membership.

 A pressing issue is rural oxygen payment policy. AAHomecare has asked CMS to reconsider the changes it made to the 2017 fee schedule for stationary oxygen, which came as a result of a CMS combining 2006 offset balancing rates for portable and stationary oxygen with bidding-derived pricing for rural providers —a approach Ryan labeled “misguided.”

“While we’ve continued to attempt to engage CMS on this issue, we are now reaching out to Capitol Hill to alert them to this issue and ask them to get involved and are also planning media/PR outreach on the issue if it not quickly resolved,” he said.

Another top tier item are refunds that should be coming to providers since the passage of the CURES Act. The CURES Act provided retroactive relief to non-bid providers covered by the national expansion of competitive bidding by extending the initial phase of partial reimbursement cuts to impacted items from ending on June 30 to ending on Dec. 31, and pushing implementation of the full reimbursement cuts, which had started on July 1, cut to Jan. 1, 2017. CMS must reimburse post-July 1 claims for the difference between the partial reimbursement cut and the full reimbursement cut.

However, CMS has yet to provide a timetable on when those refunds are coming. Ryan said his organization is working to get the agency to a timetable.

“HME providers in rural and non-bid areas are anxiously awaiting word on the procedures and timing for the relief mandated in the CURES Act,” he said. “It’s certainly a question that the AAHomecare staff has heard repeatedly from our members and other HME stakeholders. We’ve pressed CMS to provide guidance as soon as they can, and you can be sure we’ll share that news with you as quickly as we get it.”

And the larger issue of the national expansion of competitive bidding remains a priority. As of Jan. 1, bids resumed being cut at the full amount. Ryan said an the need for any actual fix to the program is urgent.

“While our champions on Capitol Hill have expressed their willingness to take up the fight for fairer rural relief policy in the 115th Congress, we’re all too aware of how slowly that process can move,” he explained. “To that end, we brought in a sub-group of AAHomecare’s Regulatory Council to explore and develop regulatory actions the new administration could take to provide relief for rural providers, especially given that the recent CURES legislation will require HHS to reissue payment regulations to take effect by the start of 2019.”

And for the other programs and payers that base their reimbursement one Medicare rates, such as TRICARE and Medicare Advantage, Ryan said AAHomecare believes those payers should provide similar retroactive relief as Medicare is supposed to (per the CURES Act). He said his organization is working on the case it will make to those payers.

While AAHomecare helped deliver important gains for the HME community in 2016, we recognize that the HME industry still faces a reimbursement and regulatory environment that is causing many well-established companies to change their business models or shutter their operations – leaving patients and communities with less access to essential home medical equipment,” he added. “Be assured that the current AAHomecare team enters 2017 with a renewed commitment to improving the business environment for HME through continued advocacy work on Capitol Hill and at CMS, by building relationships with non-Medicare payers, and by exploring new approaches to reimbursement models for value-based approaches and emerging technologies.” 

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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