House Passes Bill to Delay NCB Start

The U.S. House of Representatives today passed H.R. 6331, the so-called “doc fix” bill that would also delay the start of the first round of national competitive bidding (NCB) for 18 months and calls for program reforms.

H.R. 6331 contained provisions from H.R. 6252, a bill that sought to postpone and reform competitive bidding. NCB’s first round is due to be implemented on July 1.

Known as the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008, H.R. 6331 calls for “delay in and reform of Medicare DMEPOS competitive acquisition program,” among a myriad of other changes to Medicare. The bill passed by a wide 355-59 margin.

H.R. 6331 is a companion bill to Senate bill S. 3101. In an e-mail blast sent out after the House vote, the Medical Equipment Suppliers Association (MESA) said, "While the House vote is a positive development, it may not be enough to influence Chairman (Max) Baucus and Senator (Charles) Grassley, who are rumored to be close to reaching a bipartisan agreement on a Medicare package that would be acceptable to the White House. We believe that the Senate legislation would delay the start of the Medicare competitive bidding program for approximately two years, but would also impose additional cuts to oxygen and power wheelchairs."

MESA urged members to contact their senators and tell them the industry is opposed to any further Medicare cuts for oxygen or power chairs.

A statement released Tuesday afternoon by the Accredited Medical Equipment Providers of America (AMEPA) lauded the House bill's passing and stated that voting on the Senate bill could come as soon as Wednesday, June 25.

"The Senate Finance Committee is close to finalizing their version of the 'doc fix,' which could be voted as early as tomorrow," the AMEPA bulletin said. "While the Baucus-Grassley bill does include language to delay the competitive bidding program, there is potential for additional cuts to oxygen. Call and have your senators support the competitive bidding delay in the House bill and to oppose the additional cuts to oxygen and to PMDs (power mobility devices)."

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