In brief: Sign-on letter calls for ‘immediate action,’ Georgia Medicaid reverses course

Friday, March 2, 2018

WASHINGTON – More than 50 lawmakers signed on to a letter spearheaded by Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., that calls on lawmakers to include H.R. 4229 in upcoming legislation to keep the government funded.

“This letter will enhance our prospects to include HME provisions in the coming legislation due March 23, and show strong support of Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ efforts on our behalf,” AAHomecare stated in a recent bulletin to members. “Our Hill sources have indicated that provisions in the omnibus legislation are expected to be finalized by March 14.”

Last week, industry stakeholders asked providers to reach out to their representatives and demand they sign on to the letter. They suggested explaining how H.R. 4229 would partially roll back drastic Medicare reimbursement cuts in rural areas that have closed businesses and impacted access to care.

“These cuts fail to consider the unique attributes of health care in rural America, which have distinct cost difference from their urban counterparts and are stripping communities of DME resources,” Rodgers writes in the letter. “It’s estimated that over 40% of traditional DME companies nationwide have either closed or are no longer taking Medicare patients due to these unsustainable payment cuts.”

Currently, H.R. 4229, which would delay a second round of reimbursement cuts in non-bid areas from Jan. 1, 2017, to Jan. 1, 2019, has 122 co-sponsors.

Rodgers introduced H.R. 4229 on Nov. 2. She has previously spearheaded a sign-on letter to pressure the Office of Management and Budget to release an interim final rule that would provide relief from the bid program in rural areas.

Cures update: Georgia Medicaid reverses course
ATLANTA – HME industry stakeholders have succeeded in steering Georgia away from basing its Medicaid reimbursement on competitive bidding-based Medicare reimbursement, AAHomecare reported last week.

Initially, the Georgia Department of Community Health indicated that it would just adopt Medicare reimbursement, because an aggregate pricing approach would create a $10 million shortfall. But after the Georgia Association for Medical Equipment Suppliers intervened and provided further analysis, the agency found that adopting the alternate approach wouldn’t cost the state anything.

“We appreciate DCH’s willingness to keep an open mind and work toward a solution that benefits both patients and Georgia taxpayers,” said Tyler Riddle, president of GAMES and vice president of MRS Homecare, in this week’s AAHomecare “Wednesday in Washington” bulletin.

State Medicaid programs across the country are grappling with how to comply with a provision in the 21st Century Cures Act that limits the federal government’s contribution to Medicaid reimbursement for certain DME to Medicare reimbursement.

Additionally, DCH has agreed to complete mass adjustments for providers that were originally reimbursed at Medicare reimbursement during the first part of 2018, before the agency decided to reverse course.

Stakeholders credit a positive, long-standing relationship with DCH for preventing the reimbursement cuts.

“It’s a great reminder that the work you put in building credibility with legislators and regulators over time can return important dividends in the long run,” said Teresa Tatum, executive director of GAMES, in the bulletin. “If we have more providers getting involved in advocacy efforts through their state associations and AAHomecare, I believe we’ll get even better public policy outcomes for our entire industry.”

MassHealth delays transition to preferred supplier
BOSTON – A preferred supplier contract for incontinence supplies between MassHealth and Geriatric Medical will now go live April 15, instead of March 1. “Based on HOMES and stakeholder input, Massachusetts Deputy Secretary Daniel Tsai has delayed implementation of the incontinence preferred supplier contract until April 15,” the state association tweeted on Feb. 18. “This will lead to a smoother transition.” Stakeholders and the state are still trying to work out details, including the implications, if any, of providers choosing to buy incontinence products from other distributors and manufacturers. “What if they’re audited?” Karyn Estrella, executive director of HOMES, has asked. Because the contract between MassHealth and Geriatric Medical is a preferred supplier not a single-source contract, providers can still buy incontinence products from other distributors and manufacturers.

Apria opens up e-prescribing platform
LAKE FOREST, Calif. – Apria Healthcare has re-launched DMEhub, an e-prescribing platform for all DME prescribers and providers. “Apria’s goal is to improve the overall experience for patients, prescribers and suppliers,” said Dan Starck, CEO of Apria. “By opening up the e-prescribing platform to the entire medical equipment industry, we aim to better serve all patients, regardless of their DME supplier.” Apria acquired DMEhub in June 2016. The intuitive platform uses “if/then” logic to gather the documentation needed to support each patient’s specific order and makes it easy for prescribers to electronically sign their orders, according to a press release. While not a requirement, there is an option to integrate the platform with any workflow management system or other healthcare software; additionally, it can be connected to any electronic medical record system, the release says. The overall goal, Apria says: improve order accuracy and compliance. “High error rates lead to delays in equipment delivery,” said Ian Worden, vice president, product development, Apria. “By creating a smoother and simpler process, hospitals can discharge their patients faster, and patients can start benefitting from life-changing therapies sooner.”

GCE Healthcare connects Zen-O with Clarity
KELLER, Texas – GCE Healthcare has launched Clarity, a secure online platform that allows providers to remotely monitor GCE’s Zen-O portable oxygen concentrators from any Internet-enabled device. The platform uses the cellular network and GPS to transmit data on everything from oxygen flow and purity, to device location and battery life. “With Clarity, home oxygen providers can see how their Zen-O devices are performing, giving them visibility of their POC fleet and the ability to act if need be,” said Donald Oleforo, GCE’s group product manager. “It helps predict maintenance and proactive patient visits. This will help providers reduce their operating costs by planning their time and resources. They can then deliver improved service levels to patients and even better levels of care.” Providers can also give their patients and their families access to the platform, giving them reassurance and confidence.

HomeTown Infusion expands service area
NEW ERA, Mich. – HomeTown Infusion has opened a new location in Rockford, Mich. The new location, which offers home and alternate site infusion services, will serve the greater Grand Rapids area, according to a press release. Hometown Infusion is a division of HomeTown Pharmacy, a multi-subsidiary, multi-specialty health and managed services provider. In addition to infusion services, HomeTown operates pharmacy, HME and supply locations throughout Michigan and Indiana.

Numotion partners with Travis Roy Foundation
BRENTWOOD, Tenn. – Numotion will serve as an adviser to the Travis Roy Foundation, offering guidance when assessing grants given by the foundation. The grants are used to purchase adaptive equipment for those who cannot do so through insurance, according to a press release. “Numotion is dedicated to helping people live active and independent lives,” said Mike Swinford, CEO, Numotion. “The Travis Roy Foundation is doing just that, and we’re looking forward to sharing our complex rehab technology expertise to further expand the tremendous impact of these life-changing technologies.” The Travis Roy Foundation was started after Travis Roy was paralyzed during his first hockey game for Boston University. The foundation is focused on empowering spinal cord injury survivors and funding research.

Sleep growth to slow down, according to survey
BOSTON – HME providers expect their sleep volume growth to increase over the next 12 months, but at a slower rate than previously reported, according to Needham’s “HME Sleep and Oxygen Survey” for the fourth quarter of 2017. Providers expect their sleep volume growth to increase 3% in the next 12 months, according to the latest survey, compared to 5.1%, according to a prior survey. Providers also reported that flow generator prices declined 3% in the last 12 months, compared to 1.8% in a prior survey, and mask prices declined 3% vs. 3.1%. Other findings from the survey, which was completed by 75 providers: Providers report only 3% of their patients purchased travel CPAP devices in the last 12 months; they expect 5% of patients to make purchases in the next 12 months; they expect portable oxygen concentrators to increase from 15.7% to 20.4% of the market over the next 12 months, with Applied Home Healthcare’s OxyGo and OxyGo Fit as the high-rated models; and they report 3.9% of their POCs have connectivity and remote monitoring features, a number they expect to increase to 7.1% in the next 12 months.

WHILL honored for innovation
SAN CARLOS, Calif. – WHILL was included in Fast Company’s annual ranking of the world’s Most Innovative Companies for 2018. The listing honors leading enterprises and rising newcomers that exemplify the best in business and innovation, according to a press release. WHILL earned a spot in the Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Robotics. The company’s Model Ci personal electric vehicle features embedded Bluetooth for remote driving with an iPhone app, a mobile data network connection, and GPS, making it the smartest, connected, personal electric vehicle on the market, the company says. The Ci has also been recognized by CES 2018 “Best of Innovation Awards” in accessibility tech, and Engadget “Best of CES 2018” finalist.

Team@Work grows coaching staff
SPENCERVILLE, Ind. – Team@Work has appointed Mona Sabah Earnest as vice president-human resources organization development, and Jonathan Walters as vice president-leadership development and complex rehab technology coach. Earnest is an HR professional with 20-plus years of experience with both private and non-profit organizations, including Campbell Soup Company, Hewlett Packard and the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. She speaks three languages and is writing a book on cultural diversity. Walters has more than 20 years of experience leading and growing organizations. He specializes in personal leadership development, team engagement, strategic planning, content creation, process improvement and public speaking. Ty Bello is president and founder of Team@Work.

United Spinal exec named humanitarian of the year
NEW YORK – The president and CEO of the United Spinal Association has been named the 2018 “Peter Zarba Humanitarian of the Year” by the association’s New York City Chapter. Weisman has spent more than 35 years working to protect the rights of people with disabilities and to advocate for inclusion and accessibility. Prior to being named president and CEO, he was vice president and general counsel for the association. In all, Weisman has worked for the association, formerly Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association, since 1979. He played a role in framing the American with Disabilities Act and participated in the signing ceremony.

Welch tapped to lead QS/1
SPARTANBURG, S.C. – J M Smith Corp. has named Kevin Welch president of QS/1 and Integra LTC Solutions. J M Smith named Welch chief technology officer in 2017, after it acquired the company he founded, Integra. J M Smith has named Saul Factor, who was president of QS/1, to lead its wholesale distribution units Smith Drug Co. and Burlington Drug Co.