While the challenges facing the home medical community remain daunting, I am more convinced than ever that our industry has the ability to survive and thrive in the coming years—but only if we continue to work together as we have this past year.
2015 started off with a significant legislative win on the competitive bidding program, as we passed binding bid legislation that will help keep less-serious bidders from artificially depressing bid prices, and will require winning bidders to fulfill their obligations. Even getting common-sense and budget-neutral legislation like this passed required extensive D.C.-based and grassroots lobbying efforts spanning two congressional sessions, before finally passing as part of a package of health care legislation and being signed into law in April.
As arduous as this process was, it also provided a blueprint for what it takes to get things done in Congress, which I will distill down to these three key elements: persistence, credibility and collaboration.
I am sure everyone who has been in this business for more than a few years will appreciate the first element: persistence. The HME community has been working with our congressional allies to introduce legislation to eliminate, modify or replace the competitive bidding program since it was first proposed. Whatever the outcome, we have stayed strong in our belief that the bidding program as originally constituted by CMS needs serious improvements.
Next, we have the importance of establishing and maintaining credibility on Capitol Hill and with regulatory agencies. Certainly the strong relationships that our lobbying staff—along with D.C.-based lobbyists at AAHomecare member companies—have built with members of Congress and their staffers, play a major role in establishing credibility on legislative issues.
However, those D.C.-based lobbying efforts would not be nearly as effective without the credibility that so many of you have established with your representatives through back-home meetings, inviting legislators for site visits and coming to Washington to lobby—whether on your own or as part of our annual Washington Legislative Conference.
Efforts like these have resulted in educating and developing new champions and supporters on Capitol Hill that we are counting on to help get needed relief for companies in non-bid areas that will soon be subject to competitive-bidding price cuts, and to also support legislation to keep bidding-derived prices from being applied to complex rehab accessories.
If you have not yet become involved in legislative advocacy issues but want to, I encourage you to consider joining us at the next AAHomecare Washington Legislative Conference, May 25 –26, 2016. Find more details at aahomecare.org/wlc.
Finally, I want to point out the tremendous importance of collaboration in advancing better public policy outcomes for the HME sector. There is bound to be some level of disagreement over advocacy priorities or the best approach to get legislative results among the many different segments and organizations in our industry, but I have seen the importance of getting past that and finding common ground.
Our legislative and regulatory successes in recent years have a consistent thread of collaboration and buy-in from AAHomecare member companies large and small—from influential buying groups such as VGM and The MED Group to specialty provider groups such as the National Coalition for Assistive and Rehab Technology and the Council for Quality Respiratory Care to disability group allies such as United Spinal Association and other leaders in state and regional associations representing HME interests.
Despite the disparate interests and constituencies these groups represent, I believe we have had great success this year in getting past individual concerns and focusing on what unites us all: the desire to make sure we have a fair business and regulatory environment so we can continue to provide essential products and services to our communities.
I cannot promise that we will get quick action on every issue and challenge facing our industry, but I do want to assure you that AAHomecare will continue apply persistence, work to build credibility with legislators and regulators and employ a spirit of collaboration with our members, partners and allies in 2016 and beyond. I hope you will continue to stand with us as we fight for HME!