WASHINGTON, DC – In a rousing keynote address to the record 350 providers gathered at AAHomecare’s 2008 Legislative Conference in Washington, DC, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) told providers preparing to meet with their representatives and senators to “take the Hill like the Marine Corps.”
“All of you here today know that your industry is under attack,” Roberts told the various delegates from the across the country. “We have a perfect – or rather an ‘unperfect’ – storm brewing.”
That storm is competitive bidding paired with a pay-go Congress, according to Roberts, which has pitted various segments of the health care industry against each other as Congress determines cuts needed in order to maintain a balanced budget. That, along with a competitive bidding program, which Roberts pointed out has yet to demonstrate that it delivers on its objective of cutting costs and preventing fraud, jeopardizes patient care..
“What a novel idea for the government to study the impact of a program before actually expanding it,” Roberts quipped to cheers and applause. Roberts said that the program should “show that it produces a 10 percent cost savings before it is implemented.”
The Jayhawker noted that recent industry presented data that drew into question competitive bidding’s ability to cut costs and said that there is evidence that it might even raise costs for CMS in the long-term. More importantly, he said, it stands to cut quality of care and jeopardizes access care particularly for rural patients, an important concern for his state.
Roberts likened trying to protect the rural healthcare delivery system to playing “Whack-a-mole,” adding “I’m hearing over and over and over again that small HME providers are thinking about throwing in the towel… You’re loosing the providers of the very program that you’re trying to make salvageable and work under the banner of cost containment, and that’s not right – we shouldn’t be doing that,” he said.
Roberts urged providers to storm Capitol Hill and “get our story told” in its meetings the following day. For his part, Roberts said he would use his position on the Senate Finance Committee to convince his colleagues to “stop, understand and listen to what is happening to the industry” in hopes of delaying or preventing the current competitive bidding program.
He added that he would strive to not let the current “doc fix” become a justification to cut benefits for oxygen and other DME. “I am not going to stand by and let your industry become a bank for other providers in the Medicare program,” he said.