Stakeholders unrelenting on IFR

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Friday, February 2, 2018

WASHINGTON – Industry efforts to lobby lawmakers to pressure the Office of Management and Budget to release an interim final rule that would provide relief from Medicare’s competitive bidding program are moving the needle, stakeholders say.

A number of providers, including Patrick Naeger of Healthcare Equipment and Supply Co. in Perryville, Mo., have succeeded in getting their members of Congress to contact the OMB and its director, Mick Mulvaney, about the IFR in recent weeks.

“The pressure is mounting,” said John Gallagher, vice president of government relations for The VGM Group.

The IFR would extend a delay to a second round of reimbursement cuts in non-bid areas from Aug. 1, 2017, through Dec. 31, 2018.

The reports back from the members of Congress who have contacted the OMB: “They say they’re working on it,” Gallagher says.

“It’s a non-committal commitment, but to me that’s better than what we were getting, which was radio silence,” he said.

While stakeholders are simultaneously pushing both the release of the IFR and the passing of H.R. 4229, a bill that would provide similar relief, the IFR has taken precedence, at least in the short term. There are a number of pressing matters before Congress, like deadlines for funding the government and reforming immigration policies, that are making it difficult to get traction legislatively.

“The upshot is those issues may be opportunities for us to get our issues attached,” said Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare. “But the environment right now is very distracting and resource-intensive for people on the Hill.”

At press time on Friday, H.R. 4229, which would delay a second round of reimbursement cuts in non-bid areas from Jan. 1, 2017, to Dec. 31, 2018, had 116 co-sponsors. Stakeholders believe if they can reach 150 co-sponsors, they’ll have a powerful case for leadership to move the bill.

“We’re trying to set up a meeting with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, and if we could take that to him, that would be impactful,” Gallagher said.

Stakeholders believe having a secretary now in place at the Department of Health and Human Services is a piece of the puzzle now in place. Alex Azar said during his confirmation hearing that he would be willing to work with the OMB on releasing the IFR.

“Maybe that will help to move things along, as well,” Bachenheimer said.