In the final days of the short September session, Congress is heading home for the election as both chambers have approved a continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown. Due in part to hotly contested partisan matters including fighting the Zika virus, flood relief, the Flint water crisis and more, Congress agreed to pass a slimmed down bill, which had a limited number of “riders” which are often times added to bills for specific pieces of legislation. Unfortunately, DME rural relief was one of the bi-partisan issues that was left off of the continuing resolution, along with hundreds of other issues.
Legislators still have plenty of work to do through the months of November and December as Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, stated in a press conference: “When we return in November, I look forward to completing work on some very important key initiatives that just haven’t quite gotten over the finish line,” indicating a productive lame duck session. Much of the leadership and rank-and-file members have shown strong interest and understands that DME reimbursement relief must be dealt with. Although DME rural relief was not included in the CR, this does not take away from the tremendous effort put forth by the entire industry. Stories continue to develop and reach local, regional, and national news outlets. Just last week another story featuring Cindy Coy of Avera Health in Sioux Falls, SD as patients and providers continue to address the challenges of plummeting reimbursement rates. Having two separate pieces of legislation approved through Congress is a heavy lift. Now, the grassroots coalition must continue to build on that momentum. VGM and countless highly engaged members will work tirelessly through the October recess meeting with congressional offices and work towards reaching an agreement on rural relief for providers that greatly need.
Moving into October and November will provide for many opportunities to meet with your elected officials in your home district and on the campaign trail. This provides for a perfect opportunity to discuss the issues that must be addressed in the lame duck session after the November election. Congress has resolved a handful of the highly partisan immediate issues that have slowed much of the legislative, opening up a prime window of opportunity in the year-end omnibus spending bill to finish up many of the initiatives put on hold until November. Providers must continue to press their elected officials on issues and convey the urgency in which an agreement between the House and Senate must be reached.