Around 3 a.m. EDT Thursday, the House of Representatives adjourned for the Independence Day recess without passing a slate of bills, including H.R. 5210, the Patient Access to Durable Medical Equipment Act of 2016 (PADME). Wednesday afternoon H.R. 5210, after a great deal of hard work from House lead sponsors over the past few days, had been scheduled to be voted on under a suspension of House rules. Before the legislation was scheduled to be voted on, however, House Democrats conducted a “sit-in” on the House floor, putting the House into recess and freezing any further legislative business for the remainder of the day. Around 1 a.m. EDT Thursday, the House adjourned for the Wednesday legislative day and would gavel in and out once again for the Thursday legislative day, beginning the Independence Day recess without being able to pass the bills under the suspension calendar.
There has been a lot of behind-the-scenes work going on with congressional offices and industry leaders, which led to last minute changes to the PADME bill. After a few minor delays in the Senate, S. 2736 cleared the hotline process and was unanimously passed on Tuesday. Unfortunately, the bill did not make it to the House before the deadline to be placed on the House suspension calendar. We greatly appreciate the efforts that Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) put forth so far, as their offices worked extremely hard to get this legislation cleared and on to the House. The grassroots efforts and calls last week were vital to getting this legislation passed and are still vital to our efforts moving forward.
Due to the of the delay in passage of S. 2736, lead sponsors in the House made the decision to move forward with revised language to delay the final cuts to reimbursement for a period of three months. This would delay the July reimbursement cuts until October 1. The legislation still includes the same provisions that bring greater transparency and accountability to CMS for the competitive bidding program. It was determined that the only chance of passage at the last minute was to use a different pay-for. This gave the House a fighting chance for the July cuts to be delayed this year as the Senate would have the opportunity to pass the new legislation next week. It is thought that a three-month delay gives the industry a strong chance for a long-term fix to be implemented. September is when a budget must be passed, which presents an open opportunity for this legislation to be a part of a larger legislative vehicle.
Where do we go from here and is it too late now?
As it stands, H.R. 5210 with the three-month delay had to be put on the suspension calendar, and lead sponsors felt that the changes were crucial to the bill’s success, given the circumstances and environment in the House. Having H.R. 5210 is on the suspension calendar; S. 2736 was passed unanimously by all 100 senators and can be voted on by the House. These give the industry multiple options moving forward into July. VGM’s John Gallagher met with the lead sponsors of the bills in Washington, D.C., earlier today to craft a game plan moving forward. Industry champions in Congress are not giving up the fight and will work diligently through the recess to get this legislation passed upon the return of Congress.
Thank you for your efforts and continued support as we work towards getting this delay implemented. VGM is working closely with AAHomecare, state leaders and other industry stakeholders to protect rural providers. We will have a grassroots call to action once we have a clear strategy and direction, so please stay tuned.