In brief: Stakeholders continue push for IFR, host Hill briefing

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Friday, February 16, 2018

WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has asked Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney to tell him, in writing, the specific steps he would take to make sure the agency reviews and releases an interim final rule.

“This is important to me,” said Grassley during a Senate Budget Committee hearing this week.

The IFR, which has been stuck at the OMB since August, would provide relief from the competitive bidding program in rural areas.

Meanwhile, members of the Midwest Association of Medical Equipment Services asked House Speaker Paul Ryan to intervene in getting the IFR released during a Feb. 8 conference call with his deputy chief of staff, Allison Steil, according to a bulletin from the association.

During the call, MAMES members, led by provider Rick Adamich, the Wisconsin state chairman and president of Oxygen One in Waukesha, Wis., shared the impact of reimbursement reductions on patient access to care.

Steil told members that Ryan’s office is limited in what they can do, but they may be able to do something, according to MAMES.

Hill briefing: Associations tag team on access issues

WASHINGTON – AAHomecare and the American Thoracic Society held a well-attended Capitol Hill briefing on Feb. 14 to detail access problems for patients.

Al Dobson, president of Dobson DaVanzo & Associates and the lead on “Analysis on the Impact of Competitive Bidding on Medicare Beneficiary Access to Durable Medical Equipment,” a study commissioned by AAHomecare, detailed how 77% of case managers report difficulty discharging patients; and 52% of patients report difficulty accessing DME.

Those study findings are echoed by the ATS study, “Patient Perceptions of the Adequacy of Supplemental Oxygen Therapy,” which found that 51% of patients report problems with their oxygen service.

Giving the provider point of view, Mike Calcaterra, Northern Zone vice president for Norco and the Montana State Chair for Big Sky AMES, detailed how 20% of HME providers in Montana and 37% of providers in Idaho have closed their doors since 2013.

Health spending to hit 19.7% of GDP by 2026, report says

WASHINGTON – National health expenditure growth is expected to average 5.5% annually over 2017-2026, according to a report published last week by the Office of the Actuary at CMS.

Growth in national health spending is projected to be faster than projected growth in gross domestic product by 1% point during 2017-2026. As a result, health share of GDP is expected to rise from 17.9% in 2016 to 19.7% by 2026, the report says.

Drivers of growth: trends in disposable personal income, increases in prices for medical goods and services, and shifts in enrollment from private health insurance to Medicare that result from the continued aging of the baby-boom generation into Medicare eligibility.

For 2017, specifically, growth in national health spending is projected to have been 4.6%. For 2018, growth in national health spending is projected to be 5.3%.

Among the major payers for health care, Medicare is projected to experience the most rapid annual growth rate over 2017-2026 at 7.4%, largely driven by enrollment growth and faster growth in utilization from recent near-historically low rates.

Private health insurance is projected to experience the slowest growth rate at 4.7%, reflecting low enrollment growth and downward pressure on utilization influenced by, among other things, the increasing prevalence of high-deductible health plans.

Medicaid is projected to experience a growth rate of 5.8% over 2017-2026, slower than the 8.3% for 2014-2016.

Growth in personal health spending is projected to be 5.5% over 2017-2026.

KCI to lay off 68 employees

SAN ANTONIO – KCI USA, a subsidiary of Acelity, will lay off 68 workers in May, according to a notice filed with state labor regulators and reported by the San Antonio Express-News. No reason was given for the layoffs, and calls and emails to the company were not immediately returned, according to the newspaper. In 2016, Acelity, formerly Kinetic Concepts, said it was not awarded contracts for negative pressure wound therapy in the Round 2 re-compete of competitive bidding, due to a technicality.

Investment firm divests pediatric provider

HOUSTON – Main Street Capital has sold Marietta, Ga.-based SoftTouch Medical to a sponsor-backed strategic buyer, it announced Feb. 14. Main Street initially invested in SoftTouch, a provider of home medical equipment and services to pediatric patients in Georgia and Alabama, in 2014. SoftTouch’s product offerings include respiratory equipment, enteral nutrition, phototherapy and ventilators.

DASCO leverages Apacheta to gain efficiencies

WESTERVILLE, Ohio – DASCO Home Medical Equipment has added approximately 2,500 new confirmed orders each month, after tapping Apacheta’s mobile solution to gain more oversight of its delivery techs and streamline business operations. The provider has also reduced DSO by eight days, according to a press release. DASCO has implemented Apacheta’s Transport Manager, which enables managers and customers service reps to centrally plan, schedule and monitor field force activity via a cloud-based application; and Transport ACE, which streamlines mobile proof of delivery operations.

VMI launches accessible SUV

PHOENIX – Vantage Mobility International has launched the VMI Honda Pilot Northstar E, a spacious, accessible SUV. The SUV features VMI’s Access360 for expansive door opening width and height, 33.5 inches by 55.5 inches; an in-floor air ramp to keep dirt and debris out of the cabin; a 32-inch wide ramp to accommodate large power wheelchairs; and flexible seating to let the wheelchair user sit in the front passenger position of the mid row. “The introduction of the VMI Honda Pilot Northstar E accessible SUV with its innovative manual in-floor ramp offers the perfect combination of simplicity, space and style at a great price,” said VMI CEO Tim Barone in a press release.

Shield HealthCare expands into Arkansas

VALENCIA, Calif. – Shield HealthCare has expanded into Arkansas, demonstrating its commitment to the “ongoing growth of the company as a nationwide medical suppler leader,” it says. “We are excited to open up the Arkansas market,” said Roger Miller, chief marketing officer. “We believe that Arkansas customers using medical supplies need exactly what Shield offers.” Shield now operates in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Illinois, Texas and Washington. The company, which delivers incontinence, urological, ostomy, enteral nutrition, wound care and breastfeeding supplies, serves more than 180,000 patients. It offers home delivery, monthly order reminders, language translators and direct billing to insurance.

Invacare confirms move to France

ELYRIA, Ohio – Invacare will transfer production of Küschall manual wheelchairs from its facility in Witterswil, Switzerland, to its facility in Fondettes, France, by the end of the third quarter of this year. The move, which will allow the company to better optimize its facility in France, is expected to generate an incremental $1.7 million in annualized pre-tax savings in the Europe business segment. The front office of the Swiss facility will remain open, continuing to serve as Invacare’s European headquarters and research and development center, as well as its Swiss sales office. Invacare had made known its intention to relocate in a Form 8-K but it first had to complete a “consultation procedure” with potentially affected employees per Swiss law. Invacare has already shifted production of its Rea manual wheelchairs from its facility in Dïo, Sweden, to its facility in France.

ATS, ResMed award $100,000 grant for vent research

SAN DIEGO – Dr. Jeremy Orr of the University of California, San Diego, has been awarded the new ATS Foundation/ResMed Research Fellowship in Noninvasive Ventilation in COPD. Dr. Orr’s $100,000 award will support his research focused on the impact of NIV on cardiovascular biomarkers in COPD. “Noninvasive ventilation during sleep is one of the few treatments in COPD that improves survival, but we don’t really understand the underlying mechanisms,” Orr said. “This grant will facilitate my research into the potential systemic and extra-pulmonary benefits of NIV.” The American Thoracic Society aims to improve global health by advancing research, patient care and public health in respiratory disease, critical illness and sleep disorders. ResMed manufactures NIV devices for treating COPD in the home and hospital.

FODAC receives two grants worth $80K

STONE MOUNTAIN, Ga. – Friends of Disabled Adults and Children has been named the winner of two “2018 Collaborative Innovation Grants” totaling $80,000. FODAC will use the funds to create new partnerships with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Goodwill Industries of North Georgia. The “Hospital to home support keeps children with disabilities moving” program with Children’s Healthcare will help to ensure that children hospitalized for a severe injury or illness can acquire the DME needed for home recovery. The “Expand recycling and access to home medical equipment” program with Goodwill will establish 10 new locations for collecting DME donations. The annual “Collaborative Innovation Grant” is an invite-only competition for nonprofits in the Building Community Network led by the Georgia Center for Nonprofits and The Home Depot Foundation. The network is a collective of nonprofit leadership, bringing together 200-plus Atlanta-area organizations.