Bid relief: Everything is on the table, stakeholders say

From getting Senate sign-on letter to finding vehicles for H.R. 2771
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Friday, September 4, 2020

WASHINGTON – Industry stakeholders spent the August recess following up with committees of jurisdiction in Congress as part of their continued efforts to pause Round 2021 of the competitive bidding program. 

Those efforts include getting a Senate sign-on letter asking CMS to pause the program. 

“Even though Congress was in recess, the staff is attentive and responsive, and we continue to try to get a response from CMS,” said Jay Witter, senior vice president of public policy for AAHomecare. 

A similar letter in the House of Representatives, which garnered 101 signatures, was sent to CMS in July, but the agency has yet to respond, stakeholders say.  

With just a few weeks to work with – both chambers of Congress return to work this week for just a few weeks before recessing again until after the November elections – stakeholders have a full plate. In addition to getting a Senate sign-on letter, they’re identifying possible legislative vehicles for H.R. 2771, which would make permanent the 50/50 blended reimbursement rates in rural areas and would introduce a 75/25 rate for non-rural, non-bid areas, as well as eliminate the oxygen budget neutrality requirement. 

Those vehicles include a continuing resolution to fund the government, that must be passed before Sept. 30; a Medicare extenders package that must be passed before the end of the year, and possibly another COVID bill, says Witter. 

Meanwhile, stakeholders are also still waiting on CMS to release its proposed 2021 payment rule for DMEPOS. The rule is typically published the first week of July and stakeholders are hopeful the continued hold-up means the agency may delay Round 2021. 

“We are waiting with bated breath,” said Tom Ryan, president and CEO of AAHomecare. “We believe there will be a delay.” 

If CMS doesn’t pause the program on its own, lawmakers have the authority to do so, says Witter. 

“Everybody wants to give CMS a chance to do it, but we are preparing for (other possibilities),” he said.