In brief: Senators circulate letter, Liberty looks to sell

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Friday, June 30, 2017

WASHINGTON – A letter urging HHS Secretary Tom Price to use regulatory authority to provide bid relief in non-bid areas is now circulating in the United States Senate.

The letter, which is spearheaded by Sens. John Thune, R-S.D., and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and also addressed to CMS Administrator Seema Verma, states: “We are concerned that CMS did not fully consider the costs of providing DME in non-competitively bid areas or the length of time needed by providers to adjust to the change.”

A House letter, spearheaded by Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., and Diana DeGette, D-Colo., collected 154 co-signers earlier this month. That letter also asked the secretary to permanently protect accessories for complex wheelchairs from bid-related reimbursement cuts and CMS on June 23 announced it would preserve reimbursement for accessories for Group 3 or higher complex rehab power wheelchairs.

“Providers are seeing a much more receptive HHS and CMS that are willing to listen to the concerns of providers and industry stakeholders,” said John Gallagher, vice president of government relations for The VGM Group, said in a bulletin. “This new dialogue has led to quick action with CRT, and now providers have to keep the wheels turning for DME.”

Providers are urged to contact their senators and ask them to sign the letter, which is available through the July 4 recess.

Lincare settles claims allegations

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Lincare has agreed to pay $20 million to settle allegations that it fraudulently billed for oxygen equipment and services.

The company admits no wrongdoing, according to news reports.

According to a whistleblower lawsuit, Lincare billed Medicare and other government health programs for unnecessary oxygen equipment and tanks, fabricated orders and improperly waived co-pays and deductibles.

The lawsuit also alleges Lincare paid kickbacks to physicians and their families by providing oxygen and supplies for free.

In court documents, Lincare said it followed regulations and blamed “garden variety” errors, according to an article on Reuters.com.

The lawsuit was originally filed as two separate suits in 2009 and 2010, by former employees SallyJo Robbins and Kathleen Dunlap in New York, and Germano Lima and Roberto Rabassa in Massachusetts. They will receive $6 million of the judgment; the government will receive $9 million.

In November 2016, a whistleblower lawsuit filed against Lincare by a former employee was dropped in response to a request by the employee, Rebecca Saiff. That lawsuit accused Lincare of, among other things: improperly billing Medicare for equipment that was not reimbursable, failing to provide services, and retaining overpayments to which it knew it was not entitled.

Liberty Medical looks to sell

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – Mail-order supplier Liberty Medical may close on deal next month to sell the majority of its assets.

If the deal closes, the company will lay off 263 employees Aug. 27, according to a local news report. Among the affected positions: president, chief financial officer and director of human resources.

Liberty has undergone much turmoil over the past few years. In December 2012, a group of Liberty executives bought the company from its parent company, Express Scripts. Two months later, in February 2013, it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. It cited a dispute with Express Scripts over tax liabilities and a significant recoupment by Medicare among its liabilities.

Liberty settled with Medicare in October 2014, paying $32 million. That same month, a bankruptcy judge approved a stalking horse bid for Liberty’s assets. It was acquired for $68.5 million by Palm Beach Capitol.

Invacare closes China factory

ELYRIA, Ohio – Invacare has closed its Suzhou, China manufacturing facility it announced June 26. The change is in line with the company’s strategic plan to leverage its infrastructure and improve efficiencies. The closure is expected to generate $4 million in pre-tax savings annually. “We are focused on having the right number of facilities in the right locations to better meet the needs of our customers,” said Matthew Monaghan, chairman, president and CEO in a release. Since taking the helm in 2015, Monaghan has worked to turn around the North America HME business. Since 2012, Invacare has been under a consent decree with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that has limited its ability to make and sell certain products from its corporate headquarters and Taylor Street manufacturing facility. The company announced recently that the FDA has now approved three certification reports from its third-party auditor and it is now waiting for the agency to re-inspect its facilities.

Sunset Healthcare to distribute BellaMa products

WALNUT, Calif. – BellaMa, a manufacturer of breast pumps and breastfeeding accessories, has partnered with Sunset Healthcare Solutions to distribute its line of breast bumps to the home medical equipment market. Sunset is a manufacturer and distributor of CPAP, oxygen and other homecare products. “We have had great success adding value to the home healthcare industry through our dedication to service and providing quality medical supplies,” said Greg Wood, chief development officer for Sunset. “We look to expand on that with the addition of these high-quality breast pumps.” BellaMa will continue to serve the retail market through Amazon, Walmart, Sears and Bed Bath and Beyond.

Supreme Medical partners with IMCO

HOUSTON – Supreme Medical Fulfillment, wholesale distributor of DME and medical supplies, has partnered with IMCO Home Care, a national member service organization of HME providers, pharmacies, VNAs, hospice care and group homes, to offer its purchasing power to members. “IMCO Home Care members will be able to place orders that can be shipped directly to their patient’s front doorstep from our warehouse,” said Colton Mason, senior vice president of Supreme Medical, in a press release. Supreme Medical offers a full range of medical supplies, including ostomy, wound care, enteral nutrition, diabetes, respiratory therapy and DME. IMCO Home Care contracts with leading branded manufacturers and resource companies to deliver a robust product portfolio to members.

VGM Fulfillment, Brightree integrate technologies

WATERLOO, Iowa –VGM Fulfillment has partnered with Brightree to integrate technologies that will enable Brightree customers to automate the ordering process, enabling drop-shipping from VGM Fulfillment’s warehouse, according to a press release. “Automating the order process allows Brightree customers to push orders directly to us,” said Shalini Douglas, implementation manager for VGM Fulfillment. “It saves time and gets the orders delivered to patients faster and more efficiently. Our team is currently shipping nearly 6,000 orders per day while maintaining a fill rate of 99%.” VGM Fulfillment has been shipping CPAP supply orders directly to patients since 2009.

Active Body secures patent, seeks investors

ATLANTA – Active Body has received a patent for its wheelchair-rollator hybrid design, the startup announced June 27. The product concept features a robotic lift that allows a wheelchair user to transition to a standing position where waking is facilitated in a supportive frame. “Health benefits from continued ambulation are significant and well documented.,” said Charles Wike, president, in a release. “With the dramatic increase in the elderly population and the continued decline in the cost of robotic lift mechanisms, we believe that this concept will represent a significant market niche.” Active Body is seeking to license its technology to medical device manufacturers. For more information, visit: www.activebodyinc.com.

QS/1 names new leader

SPARTANBURG, S.C. –Saul Factor has been tapped as the new president of QS/1, it was announced today. Factor will take over for Tammy Devine who in May announced she would retire. Factor is a pharmacist who eventually moved into sales and brand management with PCA, Eli Lilly and RxAmerica, where he was charged with improving customer experience. During his tenure there as COO, the company’s revenues double to $1B. “Saul has a track record of success—he has built teams that have deployed both operational and commercial excellence programs focused on delivering a better customer experience while driving incremental shareholder value,” said Alan Turfe, CEO and Chairman of the Board at JM Smith Corporation, parent company of QS/1, in a press release.

Harmar recognized as ‘hero’

SARASOTA, Fla. – Harmar Mobility received the “Hero of Freedom Award” at the Wheelchairs 4 Kids Heroes Appreciation Lunch June 21. Harmar has supported Wheelchairs 4 Kids by significantly reducing the cost of providing vehicle wheelchair lifts and installation services, assisting with product expertise, sponsoring events and participating in fundraising. “Harmar was very touched to receive this recognition from Wheelchairs 4 Kids,” said David Baxter, vice president of marketing for Harmar, in a press release. “These kids, their families and the crew at Wheelchairs for Kids are the real ‘heroes’ and we hope our little part helps them enjoy life just a little bit more.”

Patient engagement ‘crux’ of COPD management

YARMOUTH, Maine – COPD patients are more likely to be active and participate in pulmonary rehab if they have social support, according to a report published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society. Researchers looked at the association between healthy behaviors and two kinds of social support: structural, the type of social network a person has such as being married or living with a partner or caregiver, and functional, the support a person perceives his/her social network provides. They found that participants who: lived with others took 903 more steps each day; had a spouse or partners were 11 times more likely to participate in rehab; and were more likely to receive a pneumococcal vaccine and slightly less likely to smoke. “Patient engagement in self-care is the crux of COPD management,” said senior study author Huong Q. Nguyen, PhD, RN, a research scientist at Kaiser Permanente Southern California and an affiliate associate professor at the University of Washington. “Our goal with this study was to identify factors associated with self-care activities, including physical activity, quitting smoking, participating in a pulmonary rehabilitation program, adherence to medications, and getting influenza and pneumococcal vaccinations.”

Brightree plans summit

ATLANTA – Brightree will host another Brightree Summit at Medtrade in Atlanta. The one-day summit takes place Oct. 23, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. followed by a networking event from 5:30 to 7:30 at the Omni Hotel. The event features three educational tracks (training, executive and operations), and will include providers who are using Brightree successfully. “Brightree customers will share their expertise and reveal their best practices in how to maximize results and be profitable,” said Mark Blount, vice president of marketing for Brightree. Medtrade takes place Oct. 23–25 at the Georgia World Congress Center. Show organizers in May announced they would shorten the show by one day. 

People: United Spinal, InfuSystem, CHAP

Lisa Wells has been named to United Spinal Association’s Board of Directors. Wells, vice president of market at Cure Medical, has more than 20 years of experience in public relations and marketing communications for medical device, medical supply and health technology companies and has created two social media communities for wheelchairs users…Darrell Montgomery and Christopher Sansone have been elected to InfuSystem’s Board of Directors. Montgomery has nearly 30 years experience in operational management, technology sales and consulting experience. Sansone has extensive investment experience as both a managing partner and founder of an investment partnership…Barbara McCann, current chairwoman, has been appointed as interim president and CEO of Community Health Accreditation Partner (CHAP). She replaces Karen Collishaw, who has announced her resignation as CEO after a three-year tenure.