Washington Update: Maintain the Advocacy Push

Despite having an industry champion heading up HHS, AAHomecare emphasizes needs for providers to keep telling their stories.

During Tuesday’s Washington Update from the American Association for Homecare, presented at Medtrade Spring, a call to action was abundantly clear: the job’s not done.

Despite the fact that onetime Congressional industry champion Tom Price is now Secretary of HHS, and the legislative environment is more amenable to working with the industry, providers must continue supporting the industry’s advocacy efforts.

“So we’re going to work hard, and put our noses to the grindstone,” AAHomecare President and CEO Ryan said, speaking to conference attendees at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas. “We can’t afford to waste the opportunity, and we can’t get there without your support."

That support starts with providers continuing to advocate on behalf their businesses, the industry and their patients. This is because, while the industry has a champion leading the nation’s healthcare agency, Secretary Price still must make a convincing case to his own agency when advancing regulatory changes such as competitive bidding reforms or protections for complex rehab.

Jay Witter, senior vice president of Public Policy for AAHomecare noted that the work the industry has done to build Congressional relationships has paid dividends. When providers offer to give their Representatives site tours or meet with them in district offices, that has created the kind of relationships that will now pay off in the current Congressional environment.

The fact that as a lawmaker Price helped developed the CURES Act, and is now responsible for its implementation is case in point of how far the industry has come, he noted. But Price must work within his agency, which has traditionally been hostile to the industry, and with a Congress often being distracted by larger healthcare issues, such as a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, providers must stay engaged.

“We’re making advancements, but there are still folks in Baltimore that aren’t supportive,” Witter said. “… We need to continue to work with our members of Congress to ensure our messages and our needs don’t get lost.”

One of the best ways to do that is for providers to continue working AAHomecare and their state associations and sharing their experiences, Witter says, Doing so helps industry advocates and Secretary Price build a strong case on behalf of HME, because there are still people in CMS who think providers are overpaid, he pointed out.

“This is a different era,” Witter explained. “Usually I’m saying ‘Call your Congressman, or Congresswoman and demand action on this piece of legislation.’ What we’re asking for now is your continued stories. We need data to arm our friend [Price] against the arguments from the bureaucrats that continue to fight us.

“Legislators need to continue to hear that there are problems,” he continued. “We need to continue to put the pressure on them.”

Witter stressed that the May 24 to 25 Washington Legislative Conference will most likely be the most important he has seen, because of the need to keep the heat on Congress.

“This is the time to increase the pressure, to increase your involvement,” he said. “We’re getting to the top, and there’s no letting off now.”

About the Author

David Kopf is the Editor of HME Business.


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