WASHINGTON – The much anticipated competitive bidding relief bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate earlier today. U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D) introduced The “DME Access and Stabilization Act of 2015” (S. 2312) to address reimbursement reductions that threaten access to medical equipment in rural America.
The announcement came as many home medical equipment providers prepare for Jan. 1 reimbursement reductions to non-competitive bidding of up to 45 percent in most areas. The threat of reimbursement reductions have HME providers re-evaluating their business models, cutting back on staff, shortening delivery distances, and reducing inventory in order to make up for the lost revenue.
“Medicare beneficiaries in rural areas and outside of competitive bid areas should not have to live in fear that they will not have access to the medical equipment that keeps them mobile and living in their homes,” said John Gallagher of VGM Government Relations. “If we value independence for the aging and want to keep them out of hospitals, we must properly support the medical equipment providers who make it happen.”
Joining Thune and Heitkamp in cosponsoring the legislation are U.S. Sens. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Angus King (I-Maine), and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho). The bill will do the following:
- Establish a 30 percent adjustment for “rural” suppliers and 20 percent adjustment for other areas to address the challenge of serving large geographical areas (in place of the 10 percent proposed).
- Provide a two-year phase-in for national price adjustments effective 2017 (in place of the six months proposed).
- Eliminate the bid cap, (in place of CMS proposal for cap at previous bid rates).
- Re-establish fee schedule effective 2019. Request stakeholder medical equipment and services input regarding the following:
- Travel distance and cost associated
- Average volume
- Clearing price
- Number of providers in CB areas compared to non-CB areas
- Apply regional Medicare competitive bidding rates to Medicaid in 2020
Gallagher encouraged medical equipment providers and Medicare beneficiaries to speak out. “Quality home care and legacy businesses in rural and small metropolitan areas are on the chopping block,” said Gallagher, “Share your stories; encourage your neighbors to speak out; tell your senators to sign that bill.”