WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 26, 2018)—On Wednesday, January 25, the U.S. Senate confirmed Alex Azar to serve as the new Health and Human Services secretary by a vote of 55-43.
For the HME industry, the confirmation is an opportunity to request Azar to fulfil his commitment to Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) that was made during the Senate Finance Committee hearing. That was to assist in the release of the IFR RIN: 0938-AT21, which would provide relief to home medical equipment providers while a sustainable reimbursement model is finalized.
During the January 9 hearing, Thune addressed Azar outlining issues that providers are having with the competitive bidding program and the impact it is having on Medicare beneficiaries.
"As you know, I have been supportive on finding solutions to address the application of Medicare competitive bidding rates, in non-bid areas, an issue South Dakota medical equipment providers report has caused supplier closures and gaps in Medicare beneficiary access,” said Thune. “HHS was supposed to have issued a report to Congress per the 21st Century Cures Act on beneficiary access by January 12, 2017. I am not aware the report has been completed. So I request, once confirmed, that you would work to have the report completed quickly. Additionally, if confirmed will you commit to work with the Office of Management and Budget to quickly approve the Interim Final Rule to provide relief to rural providers that has been pending since October of 2017.”
In response, Azar said, “Yes, senator, I would be happy to work on those issues.”
While this may seem small, it is a big step to keep HME reforms on the list of priorities within HHS and CMS.
VGM’s Vice President of Government Relations, John Gallagher said, “We look forward to any opportunity to discuss the state of home medical equipment, complex rehab and O&P industries and the crucial role they play in health care with Mr. Azar.” Gallagher continued, “The federal government has several opportunities to make meaningful reform to strengthen the environment of small businesses and increase patient accessibility to effective equipment and supplies that saves money for federal and state governments alike.”
VGM encourages providers to reach out to their senators immediately and request them to contact Sec. Azar and ask him to fulfill his commitment from the Senate Finance Committee of working with the OMB to release the IFR and provide relief to non-CBA providers.