Industry Works to Move Past Price’s Departure

Last week’s resignation from HHS Secretary Price took many by surprise, but industry pushes agenda forward.

In the wake of Tom Price resigning from his post as Secretary of Health and Human Services, industry advocates are pledging they will push on despite losing an important, longtime industry ally.

Price resigned last Friday after it was reported in various news outlets that he billed $1 million in charter air travel for himself and his wife using military and other jets. This was a stinging blow to HME since, as a Representative of Georgia, Price had worked to advance a number of industry legislative initiatives, such as the Market Pricing Program alternative to competitive bidding. Working with Price and CMS Administrator Seema Verma, the industry has enjoyed a more receptive relationship with CMS in its efforts to try to decrease the regulatory burdens providers face.

“Throughout his career on Capitol Hill and at HHS, Dr. Price has been one of the most influential champions for public policy that would allow home medical equipment suppliers to maintain their place as an effective and essential part of the nation’s healthcare infrastructure,” read a statement released by AAHomecare the weekend Price resigned. “We truly appreciate his long record of passionate support for our industry and the patients we serve.”

Already, the industry is working to continue pushing forward on a number of initiatives that were in play prior to Price’s departure. One of the primary efforts is trying to clear an Interim Final Rule (IFR) that would resume the 50/50, blended fee schedule for rural and non-bid areas that was in effect during the phase-in of national bid expansion during Jan. 1, 2016 to June 30, 2016.

“Over the past few days, I’ve heard from several individuals at AAHomecare member companies and state/regional associations who are looking for perspective on what last week’s surprising resignation of HHS Secretary Tom Price means for our advocacy priorities,” Ryan said. “In particular, people want to how this news affects the Interim Final Rule … Unfortunately, there is not any established precedent to draw on in answering these questions.”

Ryan highlighted the fact that a House sign-on letter launched by Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-Wash.) that calls on OMB Director Mick Mulvaney to clear the currently-in-review IFR has garnered signatures from 104 lawmakers. (The text of the McMorris-Rodgers letter is available at http://bit.ly/2jOmyH7.) Ryan added that hasn’t been the only angle the industry has been working to advance the IFR.

“We have also met with OMB to provide HME industry perspective on the need for relief for non-bid area suppliers and will be sharing our full final report on the impact of competitive bidding on HME patient access with the OMB, HHS and CMS by the end of the week,” he noted. “In addition, our champions on Capitol Hill are working on legislation to provide relief for rural providers in the event that the IFR does not move forward from OMB.”

The industry should be in advantageous position to advance legislation if needed thanks to the outreach HME providers and industry advocates did in support of the McMorris-Rodgers letter, as well as an earlier Senate sign-on letter, Ryan noted.

“Although we have lost a strong advocate at HHS, we have established good working relationships with other leaders who remain at HHS and CMS,” he said. “Additionally, we have brought on consultants with a long track record of working with these agencies who have contributed significantly to our successes so far.

"I believe we are well-positioned to advocate for these policy priorities going forward,” he added encouraging stakeholders to continue their “excellent efforts to build relationships with their representatives in the Senate and House.” 

About the Author

David Kopf is the Editor of HME Business.

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