AAHomecare on NCB: "We'll Continue to Fight This"

The day after a cloture vote on H.R. 6331 failed to bring the "doc-fix" bill before a full Senate vote, Michael Reinemer, VP of communications & policy for the American Association for Homecare (AAHomecare), said that the organization is currently working to determine its next moves in the competitive bidding battle.

H.R. 6331, the Medicare Improvement for Patients and Providers Act of 2008, included reforms for Medicare's national competitive bidding (NCB) program and called for a delay to the program's implementation. NCB policy and pricing goes into effect on Tues., July 1, in the first 10 competitive bidding areas.

The bill also sought to improve the funding landscape for physicians, thus earning H.R. 6331 its "doc-fix" nickname.

A cloture vote the night of June 26 fell short of the 60 "yeas" needed to bring H.R. 6331 for a full vote before the Senate.

"I think there is a possibility that this legislation to reform and delay the bidding program could get passed," Reinemer said in a June 27 interview. "We're working through Congressional channels to see what the possibilities are.

"One possibility is that Congress would just come back after the July 4 recess and revote, especially if there's a lot of noise in their Congressional districts during the holiday. Another possibility is that the administration would have some sort of a short-term delay, maybe a one-month delay in everything, in order to get back to the issue and resolve the impasse. Because I think the current outcome, where doctors aren't getting their fix and all the other pieces that were in this bill - nobody's happy. So there are a couple of avenues to resolve. We're just not sure which is the most realistic."

Thursday's cloture vote results could result in the first round of the competitive bidding program starting on schedule on July 1.

"We'll probably just be urging people to be aware that as of now, the bidding program is going to begin on Tuesday," Reinemer said. "They've got to comply with it. But at the same time, we'll be trying to make sure that all of our friends and even people who could be won back over do continue to hear from us. Exactly what that message is, we're still working on that."

Keeping the industry's competitive bidding concerns on the front burner is imperative, even over the Independence Day holiday, Reinemer said. Asked if suppliers should keep contacting their legislators despite the failed cloture vote, Reinemer said, "I would, if there's an opportunity or a town hall meeting or something like that. Remind them that this is a critical issue. It's part of the doc-fix legislation; everybody will know what it is. There was overwhelming support in the House, so for your House members, if you know they voted for it, you could thank them, or in either case, you can remind them how important this is to constituents in their district and the families they serve. We don't want people to sit on their hands by any means. It is important that this issue is very much alive and that there is a high volume of concern expressed back in home districts.

"We'll continue to fight this," Reinemer said. "The issue is not dead."

Should competitive bidding go forward next week, Reinemer urged suppliers to keep track of problems they and their customers encounter due to the program.

"If July 1 comes and nothing is changed, there may be some problems with providers and patients, and any severe problems that arise from this should be shared with members of Congress and the local press," Reinemer said. "People need to understand this is a real problem, not just the industry complaining about the pay. This is a very big issue that can't be dismissed."

About the Author

Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at lwatanabe@1105media.com.

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