S. 2736 to Delay Rural DME Medicare Cuts Introduced in Senate

A new bill that would delay further payment cuts for rural DME providers and DME providers outside Medicare non-bid areas has been introduced in the United States Senate.

S. 2736, the Patient Access to Durable Medical Equipment Act, was introduced March 17 by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), according to a bulletin sent out by the American Association for Homecare (AAHomecare).

AAHomecare described the new bill as budget neutral, bipartisan and non-controversial. The organization also noted the bill proposes additional changes to Medicare’s competitive bidding program for DME. Among the bill’s actions would be:

-- Delaying the second funding cut for DME provided in non-competitive bidding areas by 15 months. The second funding cut is currently scheduled for July 1.

-- Removing the bid ceiling for future rounds of Medicare competitive bidding and instead using the unadjusted fee service rates from Jan. 1, 2015.

-- Requiring the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to ask for stakeholder feedback and consider information on travel costs, volume of DME, clearing prices and the numbers of providers serving competitive bidding areas when setting rates for January 2019 and onward.

-- Requiring CMS to track and report Medicare beneficiaries’ problems accessing DME, and beneficiaries’ health outcomes. The results would be posted to CMS’s Web site monthly.

-- Move the starting date of the federal portion of Medicaid reimbursement mirroring Medicare rates forward by three months, starting Oct. 1, 2018, instead of Jan. 1, 2019.

Tom Ryan, AAHomecare CEO/president, thanked Heitkamp and Thune for introducing S. 2736.

“We applaud Sen. Thune and Sen. Heitkamp for their tireless efforts on behalf of home medical equipment suppliers and the millions of patients they serve,” Ryan said in the March 17 bulletin. "This new legislation will give Congress and CMS a chance to see the damaging effects of the January 1 round of cuts for rural and non-bid suppliers before even lower prices are thrust upon an already-reeling industry."

Ryan also emphasized the critical healthcare role that home medical equipment providers play in their communities.

“Home medical equipment companies that serve patients in rural and less-populated areas are a lifeline to seniors and people with disabilities or chronic conditions,” he said. “If we allow these companies to go out of business on account of unsustainable price cuts driven by a badly-flawed bidding program, you can expect individuals in rural communities to suffer the consequences.”

Additional senators who co-sponsored S. 2736 at its introduction were John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Angus King (I-Maine), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), and Jon Tester (D-Mont.).

The AAHomecare announcement said introduction of a U.S. House companion bill was expected soon.

About the Author

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

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