In brief: West Virginia lawmakers go to bat for HME; Patientco, TwelveStone receive investments

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Friday, July 27, 2018

WASHINGTON – A group of senators and representatives from West Virginia has sent a letter to CMS Administrator Seema Verma saying the agency’s May 9 interim final rule “does not go far enough” to ensure continued access to DME for the elderly and disabled in rural areas.

The group points out that, while the IFR reinstates 50/50 blended reimbursement rates, it only does so for rural and non-contiguous areas, not all non-competitive bidding areas.

“We were hopeful that the IFR would prevent further closures and begin to move toward adequate reimbursement for our providers by addressing this issue,” the group wrote in the July 18 letter. “Unfortunately, this did not occur.”

The letter was signed by Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito, and Reps. David McKinley, Alex Mooney and Evan Jenkins.

The lack of more widespread relief, coupled with a 38% reduction in the number of providers in West Virginia, has left much of the Medicare and Medicaid patients in the state in crisis, the group says.

“West Virginia is a rural state and our seniors rely on the compassionate care that our small businesses provide, including home delivery, setup assistance and prompt service when problems arise,” they wrote. “Without this type of service the patient will require a trip to the hospital emergency room or worse possible death.”

The group asks CMS to respond to the letter by Aug. 15.

“We implore you to take into account the unique challenges that small providers in our rural state face as CMS considers the final rule,” they wrote.

Moneyline: Patientco, TwelveStone receive investments; DME Express makes buy

ATLANTA – Patientco, a patient billing and payment technology company, has raised $28 million in Series B growth capital.

The investment was led by Accel-KKY, with participation from existing investor BlueCross BlueShield Venture Partners/Sandbox Advantage Fund. It will be used to accelerate growth, expand sales and marketing, and further product innovation.

“We are solving an unprecedented affordability crisis in health care,” said Bird Blitch, co-founder and CEO of Patientco. “We are excited to partner with Accel-KKR to continue our growth and help more health systems solve this complex challenge.”

Patientco serves more than 2,000 healthcare locations across the U.S. and has more than $1 billion in payments processed.

TwelveStone gains additional investment

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – TwelveStone Health Partners will receive an additional $4.3 million investment from Claritas Capital to fuel expansion efforts for its packaged pharmacy, infusion center, and technology platform business lines. The Nashville-based PE firm previously invested $3.35 million in TwelveStone in June 2017, according to a press release. “This is a significant vote of confidence in our team,” said Shane Reeves, CEO of TwelveStone. “Post-acute care is rapidly expanding, and with Claritas we have the ability to scale and achieve the speed to market necessary for rapid growth.”

DME Express acquires Advanced Therapeutics

BATON ROUGE, La. – DME Express, which provides DME to the hospice and nursing facilities, has acquired Maryland-based Advanced Therapeutics, bringing its patient population to more than 10,000 throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas, Alabama, Maryland, Virginia, The District of Columbia and Hawaii. “This transaction will enable us to continue our strategy of new market expansion by acquiring high quality regional operations in fragmented markets ripe for consolidation, where DME Express can provide superior service, lower costs and higher quality equipment to customers,” said Mark Borneleit, DME Express CEO. It’s the company’s fourth add-on acquisition since partnering with Waypoint Capital Partners.

Survey: Mobility devices hamper employment

YARMOUTH, Maine – The majority of wheelchair users say using a mobility device has negatively impacted them while working or job hunting, according to a new survey.

The survey, conducted on behalf of the Toyota Mobility Foundation, highlights the need for innovative assistive technology to help people with limited mobility succeed in the U.S. workplace, according to a press release.

More than one-third (36%) of wheelchair users in the U.S. say they have been unable to work as a result of their device; one-quarter (27%) say they feel their talent has been wasted; and one-fifth (20%) say they have been given less responsibility at work.

“With potentially millions of people around the world unable to work or be as productive due to their current mobility devices, there are clear social and economic implications which highlight the urgent need for innovation in the field of assistive technology,” said Ryan Klem, director of programs for the foundation, in the release.

The survey was commissioned as part of the foundation’s $4 million Mobility Unlimited Challenge, which launched in November. A survey released in April gathered data highlighting the pain caused to wheelchair users by outdated technology.

Stakeholders push back against ostomy recommendation

WASHINGTON – The Access & Care Coalition, led by the United Spinal Association, has retained a lobbying group to boost efforts to prevent expanding competitive bidding to ostomy and urological supplies, according to a bulletin from AAHomecare. A June MedPAC report included recommendations to include the two product categories in Medicare’s bid program. The coalition is part of a coordinated effort by AAHomecare, consumers and other stakeholders who believe that a proactive approach against the recommendation is important. In March, AAHomecare released a white paper and issue brief on the subject.

Medtrade, VGM shine spotlight on retail

ATLANTA — This year’s Medtrade will once again dedicate several educational sessions and show floor space to retail, including a new breakfast session led by VGM’s Rob Baumhover called “Rise & Retail,” on Wednesday, Oct. 17, from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. “Members like the opportunity to sit with their peers in small group settings getting into the weeds of retail best practices,” said Baumhover, director of retail. Other sessions in the retail track include “Experience Matters: Build and Grow Your Retail Business Brick by Brick,” on Monday, Oct. 15; “Retail Caring for Customers Beyond the Barriers of Insurance,” on Tuesday, Oct. 16; and “Stop Complaining about Amazon. You have the Competitive Advantage,” on Wednesday, Oct. 17. Baumhover will also host a “retail table” to help attendees learn merchandising and in-store marketing ideas. To register for Medtrade, go here.

B&F adds two healthcare attorneys

AMARILLO, Texas – Brown & Fortunato has added Markus Cicka and Beth Anne Jackson as its two newest shareholders, bringing its total number of health law attorneys to 17, according to an announcement. Cicka has 25 years of healthcare law under his belt, including as partner at two national law firms and as an in-house compliance officer and director for a state Medicaid program integrity unit. He is admitted to practice in Texas, Missouri and Illinois. Jackson has more than 21 years of experience with contracts, and policies and procedures at hospitals, health care systems, ambulatory surgery centers, drug and alcohol treatment centers, physician groups and other providers. She is admitted to practice in Texas and Pennsylvania.

House repeals device tax

WASHINGTON – The House of Representatives voted earlier this week to repeal a 2.3% excise tax on medical devices. The tax, created under the Affordable Care Act, is not set to take effect until 2020. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have sought to repeal the tax, arguing that it would lead to higher prices for consumers and the loss of manufacturing jobs. Most HME was excluded from the tax.

bflow partners with Ability Network

FRESNO, Calif. – bflow Solutions has moved its post-acute business management solutions, including its EDI, esMD and OASIS transactions, to Ability Network. “This transition gives us the necessary technological advances we need to power our ambitious initiatives for the bflow platform,” said Ted Jones, COO of bflow Solutions. Ability Network provides core connectivity, administrative, clinical and performance improvement capabilities to more than 44,000 facilities.

Norco to host fundraiser

SPOKANE, Wash. – Norco will host a fundraiser for Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., on Aug. 6 at its location here. VGM will co-host. McMorris Rodgers has been a champion for the HME industry: In 2017 she introduced H.R. 4229, a bill that would provide relief from Medicare’s competitive bidding program in non-bid areas and that has 155 co-sponsors. Individual sponsors are $75; PAC sponsors $1,000; and host sponsors $2,500. For questions or to RSVP, contact Emily Harken at emily.harken@vgm.com.

PHS adds location in Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE – Pediatric Home Service (PHS) has expanded its services across Wisconsin with a new location here. “We’ve been serving families with respiratory therapy in western Wisconsin for nearly 30 years,” said Mark Hamman, president. “Our Milwaukee satellite location supports requests to provide services throughout Wisconsin.” The Milwaukee location will offer respiratory therapy and equipment, with high-tech care provided by neonatal pediatric specialists who are available 24/7. Clinicians will also support enteral nutrition. PHS currently supports more than 5,000 children and their families in Minnesota, Wisconsin, northern Iowa, and eastern North Dakota and South Dakota.

Citus Health chosen by OptionOne Pharmacy

NEW YORK – Citus Health, a digital health solutions provider for the post-acute care industry, has been chosen by OptionOne Pharmacy, a home infusion provider, to enhance the company’s digital capabilities with patient engagement and outcomes tracking solutions. OptionOne will roll out the Citus Health Call Bell HIPAA-compliance, secure messaging solutions to streamline patient to staff and staff to staff communications, and eliminate inefficient phone and paper processes, according to a press release. With Citus Health, OptionOne will also have access to: supply tracking and management to minimize or eliminate under- or over-supply in patient homes; patient and physician electronic signatures and documentation required for billing; digital triage for instant responses to common questions; translation capabilities to facilitate staff and patient communications in over 90 languages; and outcomes tracking that allows for patient surveys and important data collection.

PlayMaker strengthens data analytics play

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – PlayMaker Health has acquired viaDirect Solutions, a provider of market intelligence and data analytics for the post-acute care sector. “viaDirect delivers incredible data insights that forward-thinking providers can leverage to drive significant business development,” said John Griscavage, who will remain CEO of the company. “Incorporating their market intelligence and data analytics into our purpose-built post-acute platform gives our current and potential clients the most comprehensive view of their market, from untapped referral sources to opportunities for expansion.” viaDirect principals John Kiehl and Ginger Voss will join the PlayMaker leadership team, with Kiehl leading the data analytics strategy and Voss managing strategic partnerships. The company has also refined its brand, company name and website: It is now known as PlayMaker Health.

Another court issues TRO on CMS

BROWNSVILLE, Texas – A court has again issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting CMS from recouping overpayments until after the administrative law judge level, this time on behalf of Adams EMS, according to healthcare attorney Elizabeth Hogue. In June, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas issued a TRO on behalf of Family Rehabilitation. In this most recent case before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Health Integrity, a ZPIC, determined that Adams EMS received $148,035 in overpayments on claims submitted from July 17, 2012, to Jan. 15, 2016, an amount it extrapolated to $418,035. Adams successfully argued that it was being deprived of due process because of the massive backlog at the ALJ and that recoupment before it had its day in appeals court would put the company out of business. “So there it is; yet another court decision granting relief for providers from recoupments,” Hogue wrote in an email bulletin. “Providers now have tools that they didn’t have before. Use them to protect your patients, businesses and employees.”

People news: Dennis Sharpe

Anaheim, Calif.-based MK Battery has announced that Dennis Sharpe, director of global HME business, will retire as of Aug. 31, 2018, closing out what the company calls a “brilliant 32-year career.” “Dennis has been the heart and soul of our mobility business,” said Wayne Merdinger, executive vice president and general manager. “He helped pioneer the evolution from flooded automotive types to Sealed VRLA batteries for use in wheelchair applications. Since then, he has continued to cultivate extraordinary customer relationships, represent MK Battery on international wheelchair standards committees, advocate for the industry on Capitol Hill, provide invaluable technical knowledge about batteries to industry stakeholders, and serve as an integral member of our senior management team.” Sharpe plans to focus his efforts on marketing his own brand of wines on the central coast of California.

BOC offers CDME exam

OWINGS MILLS, Md. – The Board of Certification/Accreditation (BOC) will hold a DME workshop and exam at BECO Tower II in Owings Mills, Md., on Aug. 29-30. On Aug. 29, Jeff Hedges, CDME, president and CEO of R.J. Hedges & Associates, will give a workshop, “An Introduction to the Certified Durable Medical Equipment Specialist.” On Aug. 30, BOC will offer the CDME exam. The workshop is free, and eligibility requirements for the exam are a high school diploma and 500 hours of experience in the DME industry. Reserve your spot here.