In brief: AAHomecare increases pressure, Cardinal expands homecare presence

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Friday, April 21, 2017

WASHINGTON – AAHomecare is asking lawmakers for relief from a “double-dip” oxygen cut in the 2017 Medicare fee schedule for stationary oxygen.

The move reinforces a letter that the association sent to previous leadership at CMS in December, asking the agency to recalculate its rates, which have dipped below competitive bidding rates in rural and non-bid areas.

“We would like to reinforce these efforts by generating congressional interest and support on the issues, as well,” the association states.

AAHomecare is also engaging the new leadership at CMS and the Department of Health and Human Services.

The association is calling HME providers to action, asking them to contact their members of Congress to educate them about the issue and have them contact CMS.

AAHomecare argues that CMS has improperly reduced payments for E1390 by applying a regulation introduced in 2006—called the budget neutrality offset—that only should be applied to unadjusted fee schedules. The association says the 2017 fee schedule for stationary oxygen must be consistent with those based on regional single payment amounts from competitive bidding areas.

Legal action: Apria Healthcare, Lincare

LAKE FOREST, Calif. – A man from Santa Ana, Calif., has filed a class-action lawsuit against Apria Healthcare for allegedly contacting him without his permission regarding money he allegedly owed the provider. Frank Gutierrez filed a complaint on April 3 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, alleging Apria violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. Between July 2015 and July 2016, Apria allegedly contacted Gutierrez on his cell phone to collect payment on an alleged outstanding debt, according to the lawsuit. Apria has been charged with allegedly failing to receive prior express consent to contact Gutierrez and using an automatic dialing system.

Former employee sues Lincare

Charles Hartwig, the former CIO for Lincare, has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the company, according to local news reports. Hartwig in November 2015 accepted Lincare’s employment offer, which included a base salary of $325,000 a year, a $50,000 signing bonus and relocation expenses to move his family from New Jersey to Florida, according to the lawsuit. Five months later, however, he was fired. Hartwigargues in the lawsuit that Lincare allegedly failed to pay all of his relocation expenses and that it must repay his signing bonus. Hartwig, who previously worked at Johnson & Johnson, says in his lawsuit that Lincare hired him, in part, for helping the company complete its acquisition of American Home Patient

Many sleep apps lacking in basic information

YARMOUTH, Maine – Apps for sleep apnea may not be going far enough to help users understand the importance of a good night’s sleep, researchers say. There are hundreds of apps available that use soothing sounds to help people fall asleep, but less than half of the apps researchers looked at offer information about sleep or its importance, according to the Voice of America. “We were surprised that some of the apps didn’t say anything about the recommended amount of sleep someone should get on a regular basis,” said Diana Grigsby-Toussaint, a kinesiology and community health professor at the University of Illinois, who led the new analysis with colleagues at the New York University School of Medicine.

Cardinal Health expands scope in home health care

DUBLIN, Ohio – Cardinal Health has entered into a definitive agreement to buy the patient care, deep vein thrombosis and nutritional inefficiency business of Medtronic for $6.1 billion in cash.

Total revenues for that business, which encompasses 23 product categories across multiple market settings, were $2.3 billion for the 12 months ending October 2016. More than 70% of total sales were in the U.S., according to a press release.

“Given the current trends in health care, including aging demographics and a focus on post-acute care, this industry-leading portfolio will help us further expand our scope in the operating room, in long-term care facilities and in home healthcare, reaching customers across the entire continuum of care,” said George Barrett, chairman and CEO of Cardinal Health, in the release.

Cardinal Health says the business is complementary to its medical consumables business and, once the transaction is complete, it will become part of its medical segment, which is led by Don Casey, that segment’s CEO.

Cardinal Health expects to finance the deal with a combination of $4.5 billion in new senior unsecured notes and existing cash. It expects to close the deal in the first quarter of its fiscal year 2018.

UPitt develops waterproof power wheelchair

PITTSBURGH – The University of Pittsburgh Human Engineering Research Laboratories (HERL) has designed, developed and constructed a patent-pending waterproof power wheelchair that runs entirely on compressed air. The PneuChair pneumatic wheelchair was unveiled this month at Morgan’s Wonderland, a 25-acre theme park in San Antonio that was built specifically for people with disabilities. Ten of the wheelchairs will be available for use at the venue’s new splash park, Morgan’s Inspiration Island, when it opens this spring. The wheelchair uses high-pressured air as an energy source instead of batteries and electronics. It weighs about 80 pounds and takes 10 minutes to charge, compared to eight hours for an electric mobility device. HERL, which is a joint effort between UPitt, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, was already working on a prototype of the PneuChair when it was contacted by representatives from Sports Outdoor and Recreation (SOAR), which oversees Morgan’s Wonderland, to help develop a power wheelchair for the splash park.

Numotion buys Horn’s

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. – Numotion has acquired Horn’s Medical Supply in Athens, Texas, the company announced April 14. The acquisition allows Numotion to better serve customers in eastern Texas, it says. Horn’s has been in business for more than 20 years and serves thousands of customers, according to a press release. “Expanding our presence in East Texas brings more mobility options to those who need them most,” said Mike Swinford, CEO of Numotion. Numotion will continue to serve customers from the Horn’s location in Athens. Horn’s employees, including founders Jim and Jerry Horn, will support customer sales and care, and product service and repair. As part of Numotion, they will have access to a larger product offering and support infrastructure that will help increase efficiency, according to the release. Numotion now has locations in nearly every state and serves more 250,000 customers annually, it says.

Thelma Prial passes away

GOOSE CREEK, S.C. – The wife of Sheldon Prial, a long-time advocate of the HME industry, passed away on April 17. Thelma Prial is survived by her husband of 67 years, and her children and grandchildren. “Mom and Dad were truly inseparable in both their lives and their careers,” wrote Pam Stein and Jon Prial, their children. “From the pharmacies they ran to the home health care dealer co-operative they established, they made every decision as a team and they never disagreed on anything (according to Dad).” Sheldon Prial, who turns 90 on May 5, will be moving from their home in Goose Creak, S.C., to an assisted living facility in Summerville, S.C. He will continue to have access to email at shelly@prialfamily.net.

GAO studies challenges, opportunities surrounding remote patient monitoring

WASHINGTON – Concerns over payment and coverage restrictions are barriers to healthcare providers and patients using telehealth and remote patient monitoring to improve quality of care, according to a new study from the Government Accountability Office. An example of such a restriction, the GAO says: Medicare telehealth coverage limits the geographic and practice settings in which beneficiaries may receive these services. For the study, the GAO reviewed Medicare documents and regulations, and interviewed agency officials. It also selected nine general and medical specialty associations with expertise and interest in telehealth or remote patient monitoring, and interviewed representatives from each of those associations. The GAO also found that Medicare models, demonstrations and a new merit-based incentive payment system have the potential to expand the use of telehealth and remote patient monitoring. It notes that CMS supports eight models and demonstrations in which certain Medicare telehealth requirements have been waived, such as requirements for the locations and facility types where beneficiaries can receive telehealth services.

DME MACs move custom items to set allowables

WATERLOO, Iowa – Custom cushions and backs—codes E2609 and E2617—now have set allowables in jurisdictions B and C, VGM Group reports. Previously, the custom items were individually priced and were averaging about 70% of MSRP/supplier price. Now E2609 has a set price of $450 and E2617 $550, VGM reports. “We are hearing that the new established allowables will not even cover acquisition cost for any of the products that are coded as custom fabricated,” it stated in a bulletin to members. Stakeholders are also concerned with the way the DME MACs in the two jurisdictions made the change—internally and without notice to the provider community. “There are many issues that are unsettling with how this came about and all are being addressed with CMS and the DME MACs,” VGM stated. “All industry advocates are aware of these issues and are reaching out to get answers and request that this change be rescinded.” Jurisdictions A and D have not implemented the change, VGM says.

Rotech Healthcare buys Griffin Home Health Care

ORLANDO, Fla. – Rotech Healthcare has bought Griffin Home Health Care, which has locations in Charlotte, Concord and Gastonia, N.C. Bill Griffin opened Griffin Home Health Care in 1983. “Griffin Home Health Care has been a quality provider for years,” said Tim Pigg, CEO of Rotech, in a press release. “They have a broad range of services and we are pleased to be able to bring them into the Rotech family of locations.” Rotech currently operates in 18 markets in North Carolina. This appears to be Rotech’s first acquisition this year. It had a quiet 2016, after a busy 2015, when it bought a number of HME companies, including Alert Medical in Fort Myers and Naples, Fla., in July. Duckridge Advisors served as the exclusive M&A adviser to Griffin Home Health Care.

Philips says its Trilogy 100 saves big money

AMSTERDAM – Royal Philips says its new Trilogy 100 non-invasive ventilator can reduce hospital readmissions for COPD patients, compared to patients not using NIV or using less advanced NIV therapy, following discharge. As a result, both hospitals and payers can see a significant cost savings, Philips says. Among a study’s findings for hospitals: After examining 1,000 COPD patients being treated with a multifaceted therapy approach using the Trilogy versus no NIV treatment or less advanced NIV therapy devices, hospitals saved $1.6 million in the first 30 days and $1.8 million in 90 days. For payers, the study found: Payers studying admissions of 100,000 severe COPD patients found cumulative three-year savings of $326 million. The study was paid for by Philips.

VGM: Take impact survey

WATERLOO, Iowa – The VGM Group is asking HME providers who haven’t already done so to take its Supplier Impact Survey. The survey measures the impact of policies and reimbursement cuts implemented in 2016 on providers and patients. Since launching in late 2016, the survey has garnered more than 350 responses.

Short takes: BOC appoints new board members

The Board of Certification/Accreditation (BOC) has named Margy Imlay and Richard Todd to its board of directors. Imlay is owner and president of Just Like a Woman, a women’s health boutique in Portland, Oregon. She is also a consultant and instructor for OandPEdu, where she is the principal instructor for hands-on mastectomy fitter classes around the country. Todd is owner and managing partner of Collier Orthotics and Prosthetics, KneedABrace Inc. and Comfort Sleeves, with locations in Sacramento and Pleasant Hills, California. He has more than 30 years of experience in the orthopedic field.