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Sen. Heitkamp (D-ND) agrees to lead the bidding relief legislation

Thanks to the efforts of North Dakota DME suppliers and MAMES, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp has agreed to be the lead Democrat on the bidding relief bill along with Sen. Thune. It took a barrage of phone calls and emails to Sen. Heitkamp’s office, but we were able to get the senator to sign on.

This seems fitting as North Dakota DME suppliers over the years have built a strong relationship with the senator. They have kept the senator and her staff educated on our issues. Back in March 2014, MAMES members held an event at Great Plains Rehab in Bismarck with Sen. Hoeven, Rep. Kramer and Sen. Heitkamp. This was a very powerful meeting. The group was able to document the effect the competitive bidding program will have on rural states, like North Dakota. Shortly after this event, Sen. Hoeven authored a “Dear Colleague” letter urging CMS to stop the expansion of competitive bidding until the OIG had time to investigate the program. That letter gained over half of the Senate’s signatures!

We now have a team full of leaders for these bills.

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

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

What does this mean? With Sen. Heitkamp taking a vital role as a lead Democrat in the Senate, this is a great milestone for the bill. With bi-partisan support from congressional leadership in both the House and Senate, this bodes very well for the introduction of a bill. The challenge for the industry right now is what we like to call “congressional sausage making.” There are technicalities and finding a pay-for must happen in order to understand what this bill will cost. The Congressional Budget Office is working through potential proposals in order to identify what these reimbursement rates would cost. While we are coming towards the end of the legislative year, there is a strong avenue available with the bill being introduced in the year-end omnibus spending bill. We are looking for the bill to be dropped sometime next week!

A great standing ovation goes to Barb Stockert, Greg Lord, Rose Schafhauser and many others from MAMES. We need to continue to reach out to Congress to ask them to support the up-coming legislation.