AAHomecare: "Now the Unraveling Process Begins"

Following a swift Congressional override of President Bush's veto of H.R. 6331 earlier today, the HME industry is now faced with a new huge task: Figuring out the impact of a competitive bidding program that went into effect two weeks ago, but will now be halted and revamped.

Then, of course, there is the question of how to best move forward from here, given that competitive bidding has touched the lives of beneficiaries, physicians and clinicians, not to mention the businesses of HME suppliers. Thousands of suppliers invested enormous amounts of time and money to submit bids, and bid winners had to ramp up operations to deal with anticipated increases in business.

Now that competitive bidding is being rolled back and reformulated, it's time for all stakeholders to determine how big the impact has been.

"Now the unraveling process begins," said Michael Reinemer, VP of communications & policy for the American Association for Homecare (AAHomecare). Speaking just minutes after the Senate followed the House's override to put H.R. 6331 into the law books, Reinemer said, "It's a little bit hard to know exactly how much toothpaste you have to try to squeeze back into the tube now. A lot of the logical questions that you folks are going to be asking, we're not going to have answers for for awhile, probably."

Reinemer said AAHomecare's top priorities  now would include fact-gathering from Medicare stakeholders. "We are very concerned about the Round 1 winners who did ramp up and did everything right to win the contracts," he said. "And there are some that won some contracts and lost others, so you have a wide range of situations among our membership, and we'll be working with all of them to minimize any disruption. And also just to make sure that, going forward, we're doing everything we can to make sure that everyone's concerns are addressed."

While the successful veto override today effectively means competitive bidding will be rolled back, Reinemer pointed out that it's not as simple as merely reverting to the way things were on June 30. For instance, asked if beneficiaries who'd started relationships with newly contracted suppliers in competitive bid areas could continue with those suppliers or if those suppliers had to continue to honor those relationships, Reinemer said, "Those are the kinds of questions we will immediately start looking at. To their credit, CMS did say they would try to get something out right away, from their point of view, that tries to clarify the issues.

"We won't have really concrete answers until we start checking with folks, with CMS. And also, we'll be talking with people in these situations, winners and everybody else."

Reinemer said a lot of work lies ahead to figure out how the industry should proceed.

"We didn't want to even think of crossing this bride until we got to it," he said. "Rightly or wrongly, we've been completely focused on getting to this point. I'm sure we'll be pulling our committees together and various task forces and so on."

About the Author

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

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