Wilson to Providers: Become HME Zealots

Providers need to press hard for lawmakers to co-sponsor the industry's Market Pricing Program Legislation, H.R. 6490, according to American Association for Homecare (AAHomecare) President Tyler Wilson, who addressed attendees at the association's Washington Update last week.

"What I want is for everyone here to become zealots; zealots in the best possible meaning of the word," Wilson told the audience at the update, which was sponsored by HME Business magazine and held Oct. 18 at Medtrade 2012 in Atlanta's Georgia World Congress Center. "Because we have to redouble our efforts."

Wilson said that H.R. 6490 launched into the House by Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) as the Medicare DMEPOS Market Pricing Program Act of 2012 (MPP) was the industry's central opportunity to stop the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' (CMS) competitive bidding program, but it required HME providers to realize that time is of the essence.

"We have a small window of opportunity culminating in a lame duck session in December," he said. "We need all of you to go home from Atlanta and become zealots for H.R. 6490, because frankly there is no 'tomorrow.' We see competitive bidding moving forward and this is our best, last chance to stop it."

If the industry can't garner support for the bill, it will be stuck facing a situation in which it must suffer under competitive bidding, which is being run by an agency that doesn't see the worth of HME providers and the value that they bring to patients.

"One of the challenges we face as an industry is that we are expected to make within our businesses a partnership: to provide all the services a patient needs, when they need it, and irrespective to get paid for it, to get paid fairly, or have the money taken away six months later because a 40-page LCD comes out and on page 37, paragraph three it said, 'when,' rather than, 'if,'" said Joel Marx, chairman of AAHomecare and chairman of Medical Service Company in Cleveland. "Medicare considers us all 'suppliers' rather than 'providers.' They don't give us the clinical status and the professional status we all deserve ... That's just wrong."

Perhaps one of the biggest factors impacting the industry's efforts to secure support for the MPP is the so-called fiscal cliff facing the government at the end of 2012. Essentially, with the various income and payroll tax cuts and tax extensions set to expire, as well as various spending programs about to hit sequestration as part of the 2011 debt ceiling deal reached by Congress, lawmakers must act to avoid a number of negative outcomes from a lack of revenue or too much spending. However, the next two weeks does not afford them much time to act, and one of the main ways they can do that is through the doc fix. So, the industry has an opening to advance its agenda.

"They're going to do it, and that's probably going to be our vehicle," said Alex Vogel and of lobbying firm Mehlman, Vogel and Castagnetti Inc. "So the good news is that because of all that is happening automatically, so to speak, that gives us a good window to get things done. The broader tax and entitlement conversation? That's not getting resolved this year. You can't do tax reform in two weeks; you might not be able to do it in two years."

The key will be for providers to push for bipartisan support of the bill, said Jay Witter, senior director of Government Affairs for AAHomecare.

"Dr. Price wants to keep it bipartisan, so he's asked us to develop more co-sponsors before the election," he noted, adding that even though Congress isn't in session, providers should continue to lobby lawmakers to cosponsor the bill. "They're technically in pro-forma session, which means they're in session every third day, but for a few minutes. Members of Congress can still co-sponsor legislation."

Witter encouraged providers to contact their members of Congress and urge them to co-sponsor H.R. 6490. For the Senate, he suggested industry members contact their senators to say that they would support similar legislation in the Senate.

About the Author

David Kopf is the Publisher and Executive Editor of HME Business and DME Pharmacy magazines. Follow him on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/dkopf/ and on Twitter at @postacutenews.

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