In brief: HME Woman of the Year, vent contracts, OIG on NCB

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Friday, September 4, 2020

WATERLOO, Iowa – Carol Gilligan-Chack, Patricia Mastandrea, Tamme Dustin and Terry Racciato have been named finalists for the 2020 HME Woman of the Year. 

The winner will be announced during a virtual ceremony on Oct. 22 hosted by the VGM Group, which sponsors the award. 

“These women are determined advocates and leaders – serving our industry selflessly for years,” said Clint Geffert, president of VGM & Associates. “They exemplify the dedication and innovation required to have a positive impact not only on their business and co-workers but also the customers and communities they serve.” 

Gilligan-Chack is president and owner of Health Aid of Ohio; Mastandrea is CEO of MedCare Equipment Co.; Dustin is CEO of Herron & Smith; and Racciato is president of RAC & Associates. 

The finalists were selected by a committee based on their contributions throughout their career to their company, community and HME industry. 

The committee was comprised of Wendy Russalesi, the 2019 HME Woman of the Year and CCO of AdaptHealth; Rob Boeye, executive vice president, HME, of Brightree; Liz Beaulieu, editor of HME News; Brad Mariam, vice president of post-acute care at Medline Industries; and Eric Pauls, SRC sales leader, North America at Philips Respironics. 

Mike Mallaro, CEO of VGM Group, notified each of the finalists for the award, now in its fifth year.

For updates on the award, go here

GM passes torch to Ventec, after completing order 

KOKOMO, Ind. – General Motors and Ventec Life Systems delivered its 30,000th V+Pro critical care ventilator to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Aug. 31.  

The two companies completed the full federal order in just 154 days, completing one vent about every seven minutes. 

“Our drive to put critical care ventilators into production was fueled by thousands of people at GM, Ventec and our suppliers, who all wanted to do their part to help saves lives during the pandemic,” said Mary Barra, GM chairman and CEO. “It was inspiring to see so many people achieve so much so quickly.” 

With the Aug. 31 shipment, GM has formally turned over operational control of the company’s Kokomo vent manufacturing operation to Ventec.  

Ventec will now produce VOCSN multi-function vents in Kokomo, as well as in Bothell, Wash., in response to ongoing demand during the pandemic. The company’s monthly vent production has increased 80 times in the past five months. 

“Our hope continues to be that mitigation efforts stop the spread of this virus,” said Chris Kiple, CEO of Ventec Life Systems. “Ventec Life Systems in committed to maintaining increased production capacity for as long as it is needed to ensure frontline healthcare workers have the tools necessary to save lives.” 

GM and Ventec collaborated at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to rapidly scale up production of vents. In one month, the teams went from having an introductory phone call to delivering technology to frontline healthcare workers. 

HHS ends vent contracts with Philips, Vyaire, Hamilton 

AMSTERDAM – Royal Philips announced Monday that it has received notice from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that its contract to deliver 43,000 bundled EV300 ventilator configurations through December 2020 has been partially terminated. 

Philips delivered 12,300 bundled vent configurations to the Strategic National Stockpile by the end of August, but it will no longer supply the remaining 30,700 Philips EV300 vents. 

“To date, we have delivered on our commitments to HHS,” said Frans van Houten, CEO of Royal Philips. “I am proud that with great urgency and under intense pressure, we achieved a fourfold ventilator production expansion with substantial investments: We hired hundreds of colleagues for our factories in the U.S. and called upon our supply chain partners to massively step up, all in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While we are disappointed in light of these vast efforts, we will adjust our plans and work with HHS to effectuate the partial termination of this contract.” 

HHS has also cancelled orders for vents with Vyaire Medical and Hamilton Medical, according to Bloomberg. A spokesperson with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services told the news agency that Vyaire will deliver only 4,000 of 22,000 contracted vents and Hamilton Medical will deliver only 4,518 of 25,574. 

The Office of Inspector General announced in July that it would be auditing HHS’s vent contracts under the Defense Production Act. 

CMS mostly followed bid rules, says OIG 

WASHINGTON – CMS consistently followed established procedures and applicable requirements for its competitive bidding program for the majority of winning suppliers, according to a new report from the Office of Inspector General. 

The OIG calculated a sample of 30 SPAs and audited CMS’s selection process for 225 suppliers between Jan. 1, 2014, to June 30, 2014. It found the agency followed procedures for 219 of the 225 winning suppliers but not for the other six.  

Specifically, CMS awarded contracts to five suppliers that did not meet financial statement requirements and one supplier that did not have the applicable state license in one competition.  

Additionally, CMS did not monitor suppliers in accordance with established procedures and federal requirements for another seven suppliers that did not maintain the applicable license, as required by their contracts, for the first six months of 2014. 

On that basis, the OIG estimates that CMS paid suppliers $24,054 more than they would have received without any errors. 

The OIG recommends that CMS take actions to ensure suppliers meet financial documentation and licensure requirements. 

CMS concurred. 

CMS seeks to modify ‘reasonable and necessary,’ establish MCIT 

WASHINGTON – CMS has published a proposed rule that seeks to codify in regulations the definition of “reasonable and necessary” with modifications, including adding a reference to Medicare patients and a reference to commercial health insurer coverage policies. 

CMS proposes that an item or service would be considered “reasonable and necessary” if it is safe and effective; not experimental or investigational; and appropriate for Medicare patients, including the duration and frequency that is considered appropriate for the item or service, in terms of whether it 1) is furnished in accordance with accepted standards, 2) is furnished in a setting appropriate to the patient’s medical needs and condition, 3) is ordered and furnished by qualified personnel, 4) meets but does not exceed the patient’s medical need and 5) is at least as beneficial as an existing and available medically appropriate alternative. 

CMS also proposes that an item or service would be “appropriate for Medicare patients” if it is covered in the commercial insurance market, except where evidence supports there are clinically relevant differences between Medicare beneficiaries and commercially insured individuals. 

Additionally, CMS proposes creating a Medicare Coverage of Innovative Technology (MCIT) pathway to accelerate the coverage of new, innovative breakthrough devices to Medicare beneficiaries. The pathway would provide national coverage, simultaneously with approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, for a period of four years, meaning innovators would not need to seek coverage from the MACs. After four years, CMS may reevaluate the device based on clinical and real-world evidence of improvement in health outcomes among beneficiaries. 

BOC seeks noms for Certificant of the Year 

OWINGS MILLS, Md. – The Board of Certification/Accreditation (BOC) is seeking nominations for its second annual Certificant of the Year Award. The award distinguishes a professional in good standing in any of BOC’s six certification areas (DME specialist, mastectomy fitter, orthotic fitter, orthotist, pedorthist, or prosthetist). Nominees must demonstrate exceptional service to patients, notable achievements in research, commitment to giving back to the community and/or outreach to developing countries or other underserved areas. “BOC established its Certificant of the Year Award in 2019 as a way to learn more about the outstanding work our certified professionals are doing, and recognize one who is truly going above and beyond to make a positive difference in the lives of their patients and community,” said Matthew Gruskin, MBA, BOCO, BOCPD, CDME, credentialing director at BOC. Nominations will open Sept. 7 and can be made here. Nominations will be accepted until Jan. 11, 2021. 

Soleo Health named exclusive provider of hemophilia services 

FRISCO, Texas – Soleo Health has been named by AscellaHealth, a specialty pharmacy benefit manager, as an exclusive provider for the care and management of its members with hemophilia. AscellaHealth has a broad-based Hemophilia Management Program that includes an expanded budget that allocates significant resources for pharmacy costs. As a preferred provider, and through its SoleMetrics proprietary clinical outcomes program, Soleo Health will support AscellaHealth in its efforts to reduce costs and manage patients. “Over the years, Soleo Health has acquired deep and notable clinical experience in treating those with bleeding disorders,” says Drew Walk, CEO of Soleo Health. “SoleMetrics distinguishes our Company in the marketplace, as evidenced by this new, preferred provider arrangement with AscellaHealth.” 

Protech buys HRT for $5.4M 

CINCINNATI – Protech Home Medical has acquired Buffalo Grove, Ill.-based Health Technology Resources, a home respiratory services company that serves the Chicago area. HTR, which has 16 employees, has traditionally focused on high-acuity respiratory patients, including those with ALS and COPD. Its “NIV RX Plus Disease Transition Program” makes up just over one-third of its overall revenue but is the fastest growing segment of its business. “The acquisition of HTR reflects our continued effort to find quality at-home care providers with a focus on turn-key respiratory solutions that symbiotically fit into the Protech model, where we can harness our existing infrastructure to effectively capture meaningful post-integration synergies,” said Greg Crawford, CEO and chairman. Protech will pay approximately $5.4 million for HTR. 

NorthShore Care Supply unveils new HQ 

GREEN OAKS, Ill. – NorthShore Care Supply’s new headquarters were designed to facilitate collaboration among employees. The design, which included employee input, features ideation and huddle rooms, alcoves with functional couches and chairs, a massage chair, a product testing lab and a lunchroom. In a nod to the ongoing public health emergency, hand sanitizer is readily available, and the company is implementing touch-less hand sensors, foot operated door openers and plexiglass shields. “We value collaboration and I wanted to create a setting that encourages it, even as our company grows,” said Adam Greenberg, president and founder. “I want to do everything in my power to make our employees happy, as they are the reason for our success.”  

Spring forward? No, says AASM 

DARIEN, Ill. – The American Academy of Sleep Medicine is calling for the elimination of daylight saving time, saying it would improve public health and safety. In a position statement, the AASM supports a switch to permanent standard time, stating it more closely aligns with the daily rhythms of the body’s internal clock. The annual “spring forward” to daylight saving time leads to increased risks of car accidents, cardiovascular events and mood disturbances. “Permanent, year-round standard time is the best choice to most closely match our circadian sleep-wake cycle,” said lead author Dr. M. Adeel Rishi, a pulmonology, sleep medicine and critical care specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Eau Claire, Wis., and vice chairman of the AASM Public Safety Committee. “Daylight saving time results in more darkness in the morning and more light in the evening, disrupting the body’s natural rhythm.” A recent survey by AASM found that 63% of Americans support eliminating daylight saving time. 

Option Care Health selected to provide VILTEPSO 

BANNOCKBURN, Ill. – Option Care Health has been chosen to participate in a limited distribution network for VILTEPSO (viltolarsen) for patients with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy who are amenable to exon 53 skipping therapy. Viltepso is among a growing number of chronic infusion therapies for neuromuscular disorders that Option Care Health is able to deliver to patients at home or in one of the company’s more than 125 ambulatory infusion suites across the country. “Our demonstrated track record of collaboration with manufacturers to extend infusion services for new therapies to alternate treatment sites, coupled with our personalized clinical care, leads to better outcomes and higher patient satisfaction,” said Matt Deans, senior vice president of development for Option Care Health.  

CMS updates: Hurricane relief, oxygen NCD 

The Department of Health and Human Services declared public health emergencies in Louisiana and Texas due to Hurricane Laura, opening the door for CMS to then extend a number of waivers to health care providers. For medical equipment and supplies, CMS has suspended certain requirements necessary for Medicare beneficiaries who have lost or realized damage to their DME, prosthetics, orthotics and supplies as a result of the PHE…CMS has initiated a review of the national coverage determination for oxygen, according to AAHomecare. The agency says the review, titled “National Coverage Analysis Tracking Sheet for Home Use of Oxygen and Home Oxygen Use to Treat Cluster Headaches,” was initiated due to a formal request to reconsider coverage of the home use of oxygen for cluster headaches. CMS also stated the current public health emergency has prompted it to review NCD 240.2 to ensure patient access isn’t compromised during and after the PHE. AAHomecare says NCD 240.2 hasn’t been updated since April 1999. CMS is accepting public comments on the review until Sept. 16. 

UPitt surveys attendees on ISS 

PITTSBURGH – The University of Pittsburgh is surveying prospective attendees of the 37th International Seating Symposium about their likelihood of attending the event, depending on the pandemic situation. The four-question survey asks attendees: What is your primary purpose for attending ISS; if by Jan. 15, the pandemic situation has not improved or changed, would you plan on attending the event in-person, attend remotely or not attend at all; if the situation has improved (i.e. a reliable vaccine has become available but not completely implemented), would you plan on attending the event in-person, attend remotely or not attend at all; and if the situation appears to be almost mitigated, would you plan on attending the event in-person, attend remotely or not attend at all. ISS is scheduled to take place March18-20 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. 

Champions extend deadline for letter on accessories 

WASHINGTON – Reps. John Larson, D-Conn., and Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., have extended the deadline for their sign-on letter asking CMS to permanently exempt accessories for complex rehab manual wheelchairs from competitive bidding pricing to Sept. 18. “They understand it’s been challenging to contact offices during the August recess and want to give us more time to continue our outreach to other representatives,” NCART stated in a bulletin. The deadline was previously Aug. 31. For the current list of signers, click here. CMS permanently exempted accessories for complex rehab power wheelchairs in 2017. 

Numotion adds bulk in Midwest 

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. – Numotion has acquired Northland Rehab Supply, expanding its presence into Sioux Falls, S.D. Northland Rehab Supply serves the mobility needs of customers across South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota. Bill Donat, who founded the company in 2000, will join Numotion. Numotion now has two branches in South Dakota. The company is making strategic moves to grow in the area, building on a previous announcement that it opened a branch in Madison, Wis. The company now has 26 branches in the Midwest and more than 150 branches across the country. 

CQRC backs telehealth bill 

WASHINGTON – The Council for Quality Respiratory Care, a coalition of home respiratory therapy providers and manufacturing companies, is backing a bill in the House of Representatives that would expand telehealth services to allow RTs to provide services as part of CMS’s Innovation Center alternative payment models. The bill would also authorize CMS to waive geographic and other restrictions for respiratory care services provided in high-need, professional shortage areas. “We commend these lawmakers for supporting home respiratory care access during this time of critical need,” said Crispin Teufel, chairman of the CQRC. “Telehealth-based care empowers patients, especially those living in rural or underserved communities, to receive care for COPD and other respiratory disease where they otherwise might experience barriers to accessing treatment because of lack of specialists or long distances.” The bill, “Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies for Health Act of 2019” or CONNECT, is a companion bill to a Senate bill of the same name introduced late last year. Reps. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, Doris Matsui, D-Calif., Peter Welch, D-Vt., and David Schweikert, R-Ariz., introduced the bill. In the wake of the pandemic, telehealth services have included accessing primary care providers and specialists, including for chronic respiratory conditions; supporting patients managing chronic health conditions; participating in respiratory and other types of therapy; monitoring clinical signs of certain acute and chronic respiratory medical conditions; and improving access to care in rural and other areas where it can be difficult to access providers.