Bid bill update: Co-sponsors pile on

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Friday, November 17, 2017

WASHINGTON – Industry stakeholders have kicked efforts to gather co-sponsors for H.R. 4229 into high gear and have no plans of slowing down, they say.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., introduced the legislation Nov. 2, with 53 original co-sponsors. At press time, there were 75 total co-sponsors.

“Right now, this is a good grassroots opportunity to show that there is an urgent need and a feeling in Congress that we have to fix this problem long term,” said Tom Ryan, president and CEO of AAHomecare. “Some of the more aggressive states are piling co-sponsors on.”

The bill would extend a retroactive delay of a second round of reimbursement cuts in non-bid areas from Jan. 1, 2017, to Jan. 1, 2019. It would also address a so-called “double dip” cut to oxygen therapy.

Stakeholders in the Midwest, in particular, are throwing up big numbers. In Iowa, they have 100% of representatives signed on to H.R. 4229; in Missouri, it’s 75%.

“Some of the real tough cookies we’ve had to deal with in the past are finally supporting us,” said Rose Schafhauser, executive director of the Midwest Association for Medical Equipment Services, whose territory includes largely rural states that have been devastated by the roll out of bidding-derived pricing. “They are finally getting it—it is impacting the patients and nobody wants that.”

Still, a big question remains: How much will the bill cost and how will it be paid for? That’s for congressional leadership to determine, say stakeholders.

“That’s not our challenge right now,” said Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare.

Additionally, stakeholders haven’t given up on an interim final rule that presumably would provide relief in non-bid areas and that has been sitting at the Office of Management and Budget since Aug. 24.

“Our goal is to have some sort of relief, whether it’s through the IFR or the legislation,” said Bachenheimer. “The IFR is preferable because it’s faster and easier.”

Going forward, stakeholders are eyeing a potential Senate companion bill to H.R. 4229, with Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., as a possible lead sponsor. Thune has sponsored bid-related legislation in the past.

Stakeholders are also working with Dobson DaVanzo & Associates on a second study that will compare a recent access survey to claims data to determine if there’s some cost-shifting going on.

“I hope that’s a good complement to the access survey,” said Ryan. “We’ve had some good meetings on the Hill with the access survey and have made it even more Hill-friendly with specific anecdotes by state.”