WASHINGTON (August 5, 2020)—The Council for Quality Respiratory Care (CQRC)—a coalition of the nation's leading home oxygen therapy provider and manufacturing companies—commended a bipartisan coalition of 101 lawmakers led by Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and David Loebsack (D-IA) for sending a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar and CMS Administrator Seema Verma urging them to delay implementation of the Medicare Competitive Bidding Program (CBP) for Durable Medical Equipment, Prosthetics, Orthotics, and Supplies (DMEPOS) for one year or for the duration the public health emergency. 
“We respectfully urge you to use your authority in pausing the CBP for one year or throughout the public health emergency (whichever is longer) due to the unprecedented burden that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused for homecare providers, patients and suppliers,” the bipartisan lawmaker write.
While the current bidding program has been substantially modified since the last competitive bidding round to address concerns with the previous model, its reimplementation during the pandemic could negatively impact patient access to home oxygen equipment and supplies. By definition, the competitive bidding program limits the number of suppliers in specific areas of the country from whom patients can obtain critical medical equipment and supplies. Despite the increased need for home health care resulting from COVID-19 pandemic, CMS has yet to indicate how it plans to address this unique situation and the fact that the program’s estimates of the need for devices were determined by using pre-pandemic data, which are now outdated and not reflective of the realities of care delivery during a national public health crisis. Of particular concern is the impact of limiting suppliers of home oxygen equipment in virus hot spots, while also imposing reimbursement rates that do not account for supply chain disruptions, increased labor and supply costs, and other challenges resulting from the pandemic. 
“We commend these bipartisan legislative leaders for fighting on behalf of home respiratory suppliers and the vulnerable patients we serve,” said Crispin Teufel, Chairman of the CQRC. “Amid this unprecedented health and economic crisis, restarting the bidding program on January 1, 2021 would only serve to destabilize a sector already beleaguered by COVID-19. In order to help us maintain patient access to these lifesaving and life-sustaining treatments—especially for Medicare beneficiaries in rural areas—it is critical that CMS again suspend the program.” 
Along with the requested CBP delay period, the letter also asks HHS and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to support extending the blended rates in both Competitive Bidding Areas (CBA) and non-competitive bidding areas in order to support patient access and sector stability throughout the country.
“As the letter signatories note, CMS has already recognized the value of home respiratory products in our national response to the pandemic. And while our sector supports the principles underlying the CBP, we only ask that CMS pause the program and allow time for stakeholders to understand the true impacts of COVID-19 and the evolving level of patient need,” Teufel concluded.  
To view the lawmaker letter to HHS/CMS, click here.