The American Association for Homecare (AAHomecare) is in the midst of a summer push to strengthen support for S. 1294, the Competitive Bidding Relief Act of 2023.
Jay Witter, AAHomecare’s Senior Vice President of Public Policy, said of the new Senate bill, “The most important thing for anyone to do is ask their two Senators to cosponsor S. 1294. Find the e-mail for your Senators’ staffers who handle healthcare issues, and tell them a little bit about your business and how a meaningful adjustment to Medicare reimbursements is needed to help you continue to provide high quality care. You don’t have to make it long or detailed — just make your case and ask for support.”
Be ready to play the long game, if you have to: “If you don’t hear back — follow up,” Witter said. “If you get a non-committal response, make a note to see if the office has co-sponsored in two weeks, and ask again. You can also follow up by phone; you might have to leave a message, but that still helps keep your issue in mind.”
The bill would extend the relief granted in the 2022 Omnibus budget legislation and keep the Medicare 75/25 blended rates for suppliers in non-rural, non-competitive-bidding areas through 2024.
Summertime Grassroots Advocacy
“While we want to make sure that Senate offices understand the importance of the issue, we also need to balance that with the fact that most Senate staff have very busy schedules and competing priorities — and that it’s usually challenging for them to ultimately get their boss to sign on as a co-sponsor,” Witter said. “Above all, be respectful and professional in your exchanges with these staffers. We won’t convince everyone to sign on, but we need to make sure we’ve made our case to all of these offices.”
Does the upcoming summer recess give constituents a special opportunity to meet personally with their legislators and staffs?
“The August recess definitely affords you a chance to connect directly with legislators and their staff,” Witter agreed. “If you can take the time to see your Senators or House member in person, it’s potentially a great way to make an impression. You can inquire about opportunities to meet directly with your legislators at their in-district offices, or see if there are any town halls you can attend.
“In many cases, you might only have a minute or less to engage a legislator at a town hall or similar event. But you can ask staff who are present at the event who you should follow up with on the e-mail.”
For more quality time, consider inviting your legislator to take a closer look at your business. “Hosting a member of Congress at your facility is advanced-level advocacy,” Witter said. “Having 30 minutes or more to show a legislator how much effort goes into serving patients really makes a strong impression and underscores the need for fair reimbursement.”
Upcoming: A House Version of S. 1294
“We are working with our champions on the House side to introduce Medicare reimbursement legislation, as well,” Witter said. “So, for those suppliers who have a chance to engage their House member in the near term, the message is a little broader: We need relief on Medicare reimbursement rates and hope the member of Congress will support legislation on that front when it’s introduced this year.
“The fall will certainly be a critical time for S. 1294 and any House legislation we manage to get introduced. We’ll need to continue to build awareness, add co-sponsors, and show our lead sponsors, Sen. John Thune and Sen. Debbie Stabenow, that there’s broad and passionate support for this relief.”
Stakeholders can participate in a virtual legislative fly-in on September 20, “where you can take part in Zoom-enabled meetings with members of Congress and their staff,” Witter said. “It’s open to all HME providers, whether AAHomecare members or not, and will allow us to reach a lot of legislators and build momentum for our policy priorities going into the end of the year. People can find out more at aahomecare.org/wlc.
“Passionate and persistent grassroots advocacy by the HME community reinforces our lobbying on Capitol Hill with so much credibility and urgency. We need even more HME stakeholders to get involved and help us make a case for supporting high-quality home-based care through sustainable rate policy.”
Jay Witter’s background includes government relations, political, and management experience, as well as the proven ability to guide successful legislative efforts on Capitol Hill.
This story was originally published in the HME Handbook edition of HME Business. To subscribe to future digital eBook editions, click here.