Senate backs vents issue

Deadline for sign-on letter is June 26
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Friday, June 21, 2019

WASHINGTON – Industry stakeholders have a new ally in their bid to convince CMS to drop non-invasive vents from Round 2021 of competitive bidding.

A sign-on letter in the Senate had been the talk of the industry for weeks and Sens. Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, made it official last week.

“These letters do have a significant impact,” said Jay Witter, senior vice president of public policy for AAHomecare. “They’re not a silver bullet, but they’re an important part of the tool chest that’s needed to get things done.”

Cassidy and Brown will be collecting signatures only until this Wednesday, June 26.

A similar letter in the House of Representatives recently closed with 180 signatures representing a nearly 50/50 split of Democrats and Republicans, and a wide range of political spectrums, Witter says.

“I don’t think it’s one issue that’s been resonating, but it’s having everyone touched by this issue being involved that’s having the most impact,” he said.

Indeed, consumer organizations like the ITEM Coalition and the ALS Association, and respiratory physicians have also argued for dropping non-invasive vents from the program.

“This is a great example of where having all of the allied organizations and interests come together can make a big difference,” said Cara Bachenheimer, head of the Government Affairs Practice at Brown & Fortunato.

Stakeholders acknowledge that the Senate is smaller and “tougher,” so the number of signatures in that chamber likely won’t be as high, but it, too, will add “political pressure.”

“We’re working with great material and we’re working with great allies,” Witter said. “We have a shot.”

While stakeholders are pushing CMS to drop non-invasive vents from the program, they’re also advising providers to proceed as normal, with the bid window set to open July 16.

“We’re doing everything possible to stop it,” Witter said. “The contracts don’t go into effect until Jan. 1, 2021, so we have some time, but once the bid window opens, it will become more difficult, not impossible, to get them to pull back."