Clock ticks on bid relief

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Friday, January 3, 2020

WASHINGTON – As the second session of Congress gets underway this week, stakeholders say it’s time to amplify their efforts seeking relief from Medicare’s competitive bidding program.

With temporary relief in non-bid areas set to expire at the end of this year, the clock is ticking, says AAHomecare’s President and CEO Tom Ryan.

“This is the second Congress where we’ve had the bill to get that support,” he said. “That relief is likely to go away if we don’t intervene.”

H.R. 2771 would make permanent a 50-50 blended reimbursement rate in rural areas and would introduce a 75-25 rate for non-rural, non-bid areas.

The bill, introduced in May 2019, has 69 co-sponsors, the vast majority of whom are Republicans, something stakeholders are working to address.

“We have to make sure the Democrats, which are the majority, are as supportive as the Republicans,” said Jay Witter, senior vice president of government relations for AAHomecare. “We made progress during the last few weeks of (2019), meeting with Democratic offices. We saw some interest there that we are targeting.”

Also in the mix: H.R. 4945, or the SMART Act, which would delay the inclusion of non-invasive ventilators in competitive bidding for five years. Introduced in October, it has 34 co-sponsors.

For both bills, stakeholders say there may be some legislative opportunities during the first half of the year, but providers need talk them up.

“The reason people haven’t signed on is because people haven’t asked them to sign on,” says Cara Bachenheimer, chair of the government affairs practice at Brown & Fortunato. “Members of Congress don’t just voluntarily sign on to anything. There needs to be that ask, then follow-up.”