Is lobbying lethargy setting in?

Not so, says one respondent: ‘If we don’t drive change, nobody else will’
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Friday, July 27, 2018

YARMOUTH, Maine – The results of a recent HME Newspoll show an industry divided over the benefits of lobbying, with one camp citing Medicare as a lost cause and another believing too much is at stake not to advocate.

Only 47% of respondents to the poll say they submitted comments to a recent interim final rule that laid out CMS’s plans to offer relief from competitive bidding, but only from June 1, 2018, through Dec. 31, 2018, and only in rural and non-contiguous areas, not all non-bid areas.

“If the rates from July 1, 2016, are allowed to remain in place after Dec. 31, 2018, the business model is unsustainable, because of the amount of support staff necessary to document, bill and fight audits on HME,” wrote Chuck Williams of Williams Bros. Health Care Pharmacy in Washington, Ind., who submitted comments.

By a July 9 deadline, 121 stakeholders had submitted comments to the IFR. Among the 53% of respondents who didn’t submit comments was Shalon James of Access2Mobility in Tyler, Texas. She says she has participated in lobbying efforts in the past, but because her business is in a non-bid area, it’s less impacted by the program.

“(Also,) I have not recently participated in the efforts to reform competitive bidding because, frankly, I feel that it won’t do any good, not with the people we currently have in office,” she wrote. “It is my hope that, after the November elections, we will start seeing some positive changes.”

That’s maybe the reason why 77% of respondents say they have not scheduled and do not plan to schedule a meeting with their lawmakers to discuss bid relief when they’re back in their home districts for the August recess.

“Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., doesn’t care about us as an industry and (based on) previous comments from him he believes that competitive bidding is great,” wrote one respondent. “He doesn’t want to hear the truth about it.”

Other respondents, however, have submitted comments to the IFR and plan to call or visit with their lawmakers.

“Small business owners are having to look at their friends and neighbors, and decide if they can afford to help them or not in the future,” wrote Jerry Roberts of A Plus Medical Equipment in Dexter, Mo. “That is the core of why we as suppliers are in this industry to begin with! Despite the full-court press, there is still much to be done to change the landscape.”

Those respondents say with another rule now up for comment—this one detailing CMS’s plans to extend relief through Dec. 31, 2020, and to make several positive changes to the bid program going forward—now’s not the time to back off from lobbying.

“If we don’t drive change, nobody else will,” wrote Greg Dunn of Alpine Home Medical in Salt Lake City. “Those providers standing on the sidelines need to get involved or they will get what’s coming to them.”