WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 23, 2016)—Legislation to delay a new round of cuts to rural and non-bid area suppliers and provide additional fixes to the Medicare competitive bidding program for home medical equipment (HME) was passed by the Senate late yesterday. The legislation (S. 2736), passed through the Senate via unanimous consent, would:

  • Delay the second cut for HME items in non-bid areas by 12 months. This would push back the second cut from July 1 until at least July 1, 2017.
  • Lock in the bid ceiling for future rounds of bidding at the levels established at the bid rates in effect on July 1, 2016 instead of CMS’ current plan to limit future bid ceilings to the previous bid round rates.
  • Require CMS to solicit stakeholder input and take into account travel costs, volume, clearing price and information on the numbers of providers serving bid areas as part of rate-setting activities for Jan. 2019 and beyond.
  • Require CMS to monitor and report on access issues and health outcomes for Medicare beneficiaries utilizing HME, with updates provided on the CMS website on a monthly basis.
  • Advance the start date of the federal portion of Medicaid reimbursement mirroring Medicare rates by three months from calendar year 2019 (Jan. 1) to fiscal year 2019 (Oct 1, 2018).

"Senator Thune and Senator Heitkamp deserve a great deal of credit for their leadership in passing legislation that is critically needed by home medical equipment suppliers and the millions of patients they serve," said Tom Ryan, AAHomecare president and CEO. "This bill will pause a new round of Medicare reimbursement cuts that will impact rural communities throughout the country so that Congress can get a better picture of the effects of previous deep reductions that went into effect on January 1.”

"Home medical equipment companies that serve patients in rural and less-populated areas are a lifeline to seniors and people with disabilities or chronic conditions," added Rose Schafhauser, executive director of the Midwest Association for Medical Equipment Services, an organization representing HME providers in Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota. "People in rural America are fortunate to have advocates like Senator Thune and Senator Heitkamp who realize that cutting Medicare reimbursement rates to the bone for critically needed equipment and services in these areas without further study is a risk we can’t afford to take.”

“Home medical equipment providers are doing their best to keep patients out of hospitals and long-term care facilities as long as we can,” said Kay Johnson, owner of Midwest Medical Equipment Service in Watertown, South Dakota, who has actively advocated for this legislation with members of the South Dakota congressional delegation. “We’re fortunate to have an ally like Senator Thune helping us to continue to serve the healthcare needs of rural communities.”

Visit aahomecare.org for more information.