AAHomecare Maintains Legislative Momentum

A week after a successful Washington Conference, AAHomecare and industry advocates keep driving support for House sign-on letter.

A week after a successful Washington Conference, the American Association for Homecare is continuing to make the most of the legislative momentum it gained at the May 24-25 advocacy event.

Held at Washington, D.C.'s Washington Court Hotel, this year’s installment of the conference mobilized providers and other HME industry stakeholders to lobby lawmakers and legislative staff on behalf of several issues, the most important of which was the bipartisan House sign-on letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and CMS Administrator Seema Verma calling for policy reforms to protect Medicare’s DME and CRT benefits.

“The timing for this year’s conference presented us with a terrific opportunity to directly enlist support in the House for [the sign on letter],” AAHomecare President and CEO Tom Ryan said. “We appreciate the great work from our 150-plus conference attendees for their efforts on the Hill last Wednesday and Thursday to keep Congress engaged on these issues.”

The House letter (available as a PDF), initially penned by a bi-partisan group of lawmakers that included Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa), Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), identifies four key reforms: 

  • Base the blended, 50/50 rate in rural and non-bid areas on the Jan. 1, 2016 pricing, rather than the July 1, 2016 pricing, and extend that pricing structure into 2019.
  • Use the formal rulemaking process to reform competitive bidding to fix a number of flaws in the program.
  • Bring a complete stop the competitive bidding-derived cuts to complex rehab wheelchair accessories, the implementation or which is currently only delayed until July 1.
  • Stop applying a budget neutrality offset to reimbursement for oxygen concentrators in rural and non-bid areas, which was reduced funding for those items to rates below that of competitive bidding rates (the so-called oxygen “double dip”).

Jay Witter, senior vice president of Public Policy for AAHomecare, told providers attending the event that the issues they are facing — working long hours to provide DME to Medicare beneficiaries with little to no profit margin to show for the effort — are the exact kinds of stories that will convince lawmakers that they need to sign onto the House letter.

“This year, it’s vital that we get you up there to tell your stories, make the ask, and if you get signatures, that is great,” Williams told attendees during the “issues education” portion of the conference. “Once you let them know that this is a crisis, let them know that there is a way they can help.  …That’s the number one ask: to sign this letter.”

Williams underscored the fact that the industry now has a champion at Heading Health and Human Services in Secretary Price, as well as CMS Administrator Verma, and getting lawmakers to help highlight those four key legislative priorities in a letter to the pair will demonstrate the legislative will to help Price and Verma effect these changes at their agencies. And providers clearly pursued that effort, according to Kim Brummett, vice president of regulatory affairs for AAHomecare.

“Members at the conference were there with a mission and focused on getting those signatures,” she said.

Now, a week later, AAHomecare is reporting that an additional 40 lawmakers have added their names to the sing-on letter. The association is urging providers to reach out to lawmakers and their healthcare staff and send them the the sign-on letter and accompanying "dear colleague" letter in order to ensure those Representatives add their names to the message to Price and Verma. AAHomecare’s Ryan lauded the providers’ efforts so far.

“I really think their work is going to ultimately help get some much needed relief for providers on bidding, rural reimbursement rates, the recent double-dip cuts on rural oxygen, and CRT accessories,” he said.

About the Author

David Kopf is the Editor of HME Business.

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