Urgency peaks for bid relief

In play: interim final rule, access survey, legislation
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Friday, September 29, 2017

WASHINGTON – A sign-on letter that quickly collected 104 signatures last week buoyed spirits, but there’s still no clear indication of when the industry will see the release of an interim final rule related to the competitive bidding program.

“We are still expecting that any day, any hour,” said Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare.

The letter, spearheaded by Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, R-Wash., asks the Office of Management and Budget to move on the rule, which appeared on the agency’s website at the end of August and is pending review. The title of the rule, the details of which haven’t been released, promises relief from the bid program.

In addition to the 104 signatures, several congressional offices made calls to the OMB, stakeholders say.

“They are getting the same information as we are—they can’t comment on the timing or content of the rule,” said Jay Witter, senior vice president of public policy for AAHomecare. “Members of Congress understand the urgency of providing relief.”

Adding to the sense of urgency are the preliminary results of a new survey that shows more than three-quarter of case managers have experienced difficulties with the discharge of patients who need HME.AAHomecare partnered with Dobson DaVanzo & Associates on the study.

The data from the survey, which also includes responses from Medicare beneficiaries and HME providers, boost the industry’s argument that the competitive bidding program is impeding access to HME, regardless of what CMS has said about the program in the past.

“There are certain folks at CMS that I think needed some convincing and we are providing that information that concern is growing,” said Witter.

Also on the fall to-do list: introducing legislation that would freeze payment rates at the Jan. 1, 2016, amounts, and fix the so-called “double-dip” for oxygen payments. McMorris-Rodgers has agreed to sponsor the legislation.

“We are working on that happening within the next two weeks,” said John Gallagher vice president of government relations for The VGM Group. “We want to be a part of any healthcare package that can move toward the end of the year.”