In brief: GAO reports on bid program, Lifeway Mobility receives investment

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Friday, August 31, 2018

WASHINGTON – The average reduction in payment rates in non-competitive bidding areas for five DME items with the highest expenditures in 2016 was 46%, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

In its review of the effects of reduced payment rates in non-bid areas, the GAO also found that: the number of suppliers furnishing rate-adjusted items in non-bid areas in 2016 decreased 8% compared to 2015; and beneficiary utilization of rate-adjusted items in non-bid areas in 2016 showed little change compared to 2015.

“GAO interviewed stakeholder groups that reported anecdotal examples of specific beneficiary access concerns they attributed to the rate adjustments, but stakeholders could not provide evidence to substantiate that the access issues were widespread,” the agency wrote in its report. “GAO’s findings are consistent with CMS’s monitoring results, which indicate that there were no widespread effects on beneficiary access in the year after the adjusted rates went into effect.”

The GAO continued: “However, some effects may take longer to appear, underscoring the importance of CMS’s continued monitoring activities.”

In a response to the report, the Council for Quality Respiratory Care said it agrees that the impact of the reduced payment rates are not yet reflected in CMS’s monitoring activities.

“Since the report does not address the impacts of the policy on new patients with COPD, nor does it cover 2017 and beyond, it is essential for GAO to continue monitoring utilization rates,” said Dan Starck, chairman of the CQRC.

The CQRC also pointed out that the number of suppliers furnishing oxygen, specifically, in non-bid areas in 2016 decreased at a higher rate, 10%.

“This report validates what oxygen providers have been warning for years: that insufficient reimbursement rates make it harder to stay in business and serve Medicare patients who require supplemental oxygen and respiratory care to live independently,” Starck said. “No business can take on (these cuts) to reimbursement and expect to survive long.”

On Jan. 1, 2016, CMS used competitive bidding pricing information to adjust rates for 393 items in non-bid areas. The agency estimates these adjustments will save the Medicare program about $3.6 billion between fiscal years 2016-20.

Lifeway Mobility targets growth through investment

HARTFORD, Conn. ­– Lifeway Mobility, an accessibility solutions company started by former Numotion CEO Paul Bergantino, has received a “major investment” from Cleveland-based Rockwood Equity Partners.

As part of the transaction, Rockwood will provide additional capital and resources to enable Lifeway Mobility to accelerate its plans to become the leading provider of accessibility and safety solutions for people with mobility challenges and those wishing to age in place, according to a press release.

Lifeway Mobility offers solutions like stair lifts, elevators, wheelchair lifts, ramps and bath safety solutions in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, southern New Hampshire, Minnesota, southern and western Wisconsin, Illinois and northwest Indiana.

Also as part of the transaction, Lifeway Mobility has made a “major investment” in Extended Home Living Services, a provider of accessibility equipment, lifts, elevators and modifications in the Chicago area, run by Elizabeth and Stephen Crandall.

Bergantino launched Lifeway Mobility in 2015, nearly 25 years after he started Connecticut Rehab. Connecticut Rehab became ATG Rehab and, when it merged with United Seating & Mobility, became Numotion.
Rockwood Equity Partners targets companies that generate $10 million to $75 million in revenue, with $2 million to $7 million in EBITDA.

Bridge Connector secures more funding

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Bridge Connector, an integration platform as a service, has completed a $5.5 million round of fundraising, led by Tampa-based Axioma Ventures. Axioma’s total investment in Bridge Connector is now $10 million, according to a press release. “Between $10 million in total funding and Axioma's expert counsel, we can aggressively pursue our mission to conquer the interoperability challenge with better technology, strategic partnerships, and smart hires,” said David Wenger, CEO and founder of Bridge Connector. “Connecting disparate systems is a tedious, time-consuming, and expensive process, and we have significantly reduced development times and project costs.” Bridge Connector, which also has locations in Knoxville and Nashville, Tenn., will increase its number of employees from 45 to 100 by the end of the year.

Inogen’s Scribner to leave

GOLETA, Calif. – Matt Scribner, Inogen’s executive vice president of operations, will leave the company, effective Jan. 2, 2019. Bart Sanford, most recently senior vice president of operations at Cepheid, a molecular diagnostics company, will step into the role on Sept. 17, 2018, to ensure an orderly transition, according to a press release. “Matt has been a part of the company’s success and I want to thank him for his many contributions to Inogen over the years and wish him the best in his future endeavors,” said CEO Scott Wilkinson. “We are looking forward to Bart’s contributions as we continue to drive portable oxygen concentrators to become the standard of care for ambulatory oxygen patients worldwide in this large and growing market.”

Bonafide launches ‘Amazon-style’ shopping portal

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Bonafide Management Systems has launched its Facility Portal, an online shopping portal to allow HME providers to sell to healthcare facilities. The portal is directly linked to back-office billing operations, inventory and delivery systems, according to a press release. The “Amazon-style” shopping experience allows healthcare facility nurses to create patient profiles, place rental and sale orders, suggest patient-specific items based on a clinical algorithm, and schedule delivery, service and pickup. “Our customers who are using this software are reporting dramatically reduced cost, better order processing and much better visibility into what is happening with their drivers and customers,” said Wayne Bailey, director of client services.

NSM reaches statewide service in California

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – National Seating & Mobility is expanding in California with the acquisition of Tri County Mobility in Goleta. NSM now has 15 locations in California, positioning the national complex rehab provider to supply equipment and services statewide. “This acquisition strengthens our service capability in the central coast region of California,” said Bill Mixon, CEO. Tri County Mobility has been providing equipment and services in the Santa Barbara area for more than 30 years. Greg Nelson, owner of Tri County Mobility, will transition to the NSM team as branch manager. Emily Cotton, ATP, will also stay on, along with three additional employees currently serving area clients from the branch. NSM also has branches in Anaheim, Bakersfield, Chatsworth, Fairfield, Fresno, Hayward, Los Angeles, Redding, Redlands, Sacramento, San Diego, San Jose, Santa Rosa and Stockton.

Sunrise Medical taps new president, CEO

FRESNO, Calif. – Sunrise Medical’s board of directors has appointed Thomas Babacan as the company’s new president and CEO. Prior to joining Sunrise, Babacan was the CEO of AHT Cooling Systems, a global producer for commercial refrigeration and freezing systems; and CEO of VAG-Group, a manufacturer of water solutions. “In Thomas Babacan, Sunrise Medical has found a president and CEO who in his previous positions has demonstrated strong leadership and strategic skills,” said Johan Ek, chairman of Sunrise. “Thomas, with his global sales and operations experience, is well suited to lead Sunrise Medical on its ambitious growth journey.” Babacan will start his new position on Nov. 1. Former president and CEO Thomas Rossnagel announced in May 2017 that he would leave the company for family reasons. Ek has been serving as acting CEO.

Short takes: MK Battery, ResMed, Invacare

In conjunction with NRRTS, MK Battery has received approval for a 0.1 CEU course titled “Battery Technologies.” The one-hour course provides in-depth instruction on the proper selection, installation, care and maintenance of batteries used in power mobility equipment, and is geared toward technicians, ATPs and others who cater to the HME/mobility market. To schedule a course: sales@mkbattery.comResMed has upgraded its Astral life support ventilators to include optional AutoEPAP in iVAPS for U.S. patients. AutoEPAP automatically adjusts a patient’s expiratory pressure in response to flow limitations or obstruction of the upper airway. Other upgrades include easily changeable interfaces and customized program names…Invacare supported the Raley Road Trip, Rick Raley’s 13-day, 1,500-mile handcycle journey from New York City to Pinellas Park, Fla., to raise funds and awareness about the “invisible wounds of war.” Raley, a paralyzed U.S. Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient, is one of Invacare’s Top End Factory Pilots and is using a Top End handcycle for the journey. Raley, who completed the journey on Aug. 25, has lost nine friends to suicide since returning from Iraq.

Meet Numo, the service dog

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. – Numotion has teamed up with Summit Assistance Dog, a nonprofit that provides highly skilled mobility assistance dogs to people living with disabilities, to sponsor its own service dog, Numo. At the end of a two-year training program, Numo will be matched with an individual to help increase his or her independence and confidence. Numo, a nine-month old Labrador Retriever born in Australia, will go through six levels of training. He currently lives on a houseboat with his trainer Geoff in Seattle. You can follow Numo on Instagram at numotheservicedog.