WASHINGTON, D.C. — More than 250 HME providers from 33 states held roughly 300 meetings with Senators and Representatives June 3, as part of the American Association for Homecare’s June 1-3 Washington Legislative Conference.
As the Obama Administration, HHS and Congress gears up to reform U.S. healthcare, providers brought a multipoint agenda to their meetings.
Their chief message was to implore members of Congress to advise CMS to halt the implementation of its interim final rule to re-bid round one of competitive bidding, and to either overhaul NCB or end the program entirely before reimplementation is considered. This was a sentiment supported by speaker Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Ohio), who led the effort to get 84 Representatives to sign a House sign-on letter urging CMS to stop the program.
“We must have adequate numbers of providers in order to preserve access to care,” Sutton said in her address, in which she also described the affects of round one on her district as dramatically reducing patient access to needed care and equipment.
That sentiment was echoed by the event’s keynote speaker, long-time homecare advocate Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), who shared his opinion of NCB’s impact in his state.
“I’ve been deeply involved in your problems with competitive bidding, and what you’ve experienced so far,” Specter said. “Pittsburgh, in my state, was disastrous.
“It appears that the admin is heading for competitive bidding again,” he added. “Well, it can be done sensibly or it can be done foolishly, like they did last time.”
Oxygen: A Mixed Message
While providers’ agenda concerning NCB was clear, attendees did not appear to deliver a unified message when it came to the 36-month oxygen rental cap and overall oxygen benefit policy. Specifically, AAHomecare called on attendees to support the New Oxygen Coalition’s reform platform to change the oxygen benefit so that HMEs would be seen as providers of a service, rather than suppliers.
At the time of the event, the NOC’s policy was still being drafted into legislative language so that it could be dropped into any healthcare reform legislation that was eventually debated and voted upon by Congress. So, AAHomecare urged attendees to support the policy by advising congress members in their meetings that the policy was coming and urging them to support it.
Moreover, it was suggested to providers that they not urge support of H.R. 2373, the HOPP Act, which calls for the elimination of the 36-month rental cap, in favor of the NOC’s much broader reform.
However, the plan has been the subject of some debate, as moving to provider status could negatively impact smaller providers who could not afford the costs associated with that switch.
Besides the industry’s two big “asks” in regard to NCB and the oxygen rental cap, providers also called upon lawmakers to restore the 9.5 percent that was cut from complex rehab, and advanced AAHomecare’s 13-point anti-fraud plan, by asking congress members to impress upon HHS and CMS that CMS simply adopt the plan, which was originally released in late October.