VGM Member activism opens door for competitive bidding relief in the Senate-Take Action Now

Posted on in HME Government Issues

As Jan. 1 rural rollout of competitive bidding approaches, a democratic senator has joined the HME industry cause. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) voiced her commitment to lead the rural rollout relief efforts together with Sen. John Thune (R-SD), a long awaited victory in the process of securing a competitive bidding relief bill. Her support creates a ripe environment for the introduction of a Senate bill in the coming days.

The senator’s support came after a recent phone call made by Barb Stockert of Sanford HealthCare Accessories to the senator’s legislative aide. “After a call with Sen. Heitkamp’s staff, we heard back quickly that the senator wanted more input from North Dakota providers,” said Rose Schafhauser, executive director of the Midwest Association of Medical Equipment Suppliers.   

Message Congress Now!

Schafhauser then teamed with VGM to encourage participation from North Dakota. Representatives from six HME companies called the senator’s office, sharing their stories about how the payment reductions would harm their patients and businesses. “When providers put their voices together, their stories are powerful,” said Schafhauser.

(DME Suppliers of North Dakota, MAMES members at Great Plains Rehabilitation in March of 2014)

North Dakota providers were ready to activate when called on, thanks to earlier efforts that introduced them to the senator and communication with her office.

In March of 2014 MAMES members held an event at Great Plains Rehab in Bismarck with Sen. Heitkamp, Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) and Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND). “Sometimes the meetings feel fruitless if we don’t see an instant reaction from the senators,” said Tom Powers of VGM Government Relations. “But what providers need to remember is that even small engagements add up to better understanding of our issues. The VGM team is here to encourage participation and to help build those relationships.”

Leaders in both the House and Senate are now identified to lead the rural rollout relief bill. The House efforts are led by Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-IA). Sen. Heitkamp and Sen. Thune are leading the Senate version. Both bills would aim to do the following:

  • Establish a 30 percent adjustment for rural suppliers to address the challenge of serving large geographical areas (in place of the 10 percent proposed).
  • Provide a four-year phase-in for national price adjustments (in place of the six months proposed).
  • Reinstate unadjusted fee schedule as bid cap, instead of CMS proposal for cap at previous bid rates.
  • Implement the pilot program for the Market Pricing Program, a more fair and reasonable alternative to the current bid system.

For the House bill, Rep. Price (R-GA), Rep. Duckworth (D-IL), Rep. Loebsack (D-IA)

For the Senate, Sen. Thune (R-SD), Sen. Heitkamp (D-ND)

The congressional leaders will iron out technicalities of the bill as they wait on the Congressional Budget Office to provide the costs of various payment proposals. If bills do not manifest, we will look to include the relief language in the year-end omnibus spending bill. This is a perfect time to send a message to your members of Congress to urge for rural rollout relief. You could also call the U.S Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.