Friendly reminder to Congress, CMS

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Friday, November 30, 2018

In our beautiful, small and mostly rural (except by CMS standards) state of West Virginia, we periodically endure floods, snowstorms and high winds resulting in power outages. Thankfully, West Virginia did not receive the bad weather that at one point was forecasted during Hurricane Florence, but our colleagues in the Carolinas did and they are still suffering from the storm.

I think it is important during times like these to remind our friends in Congress and at CMS of the important role local home oxygen and medical equipment providers play in caring for our most vulnerable elderly customers. Local HME providers know their customers as friends and neighbors, so they go above and beyond to help during tragedies. Unfortunately, due to the continued slashing of reimbursement, many of them have closed their doors, while others struggle to survive.

Yet during tragedies, HME providers still pay overtime to employees and pay for the extra cost of gasoline and the cost of oxygen contents and tanks, while knowing they will receive zero reimbursement for keeping the customer safe at home and out of acute-care facilities. This is getting harder to do especially in rural areas where the distance to the customer can be a factor.

Local HME providers do this all the while knowing their own buildings, homes or vehicles could be damaged by the storm. With reimbursement at levels now where we can barely keep our doors open during beautiful bluesky days, it will soon be impossible to continue to provide emergency services during the worst weather conditions. This will result in possible loss of life for customers in rural areas and increase the already overcrowded emergency rooms and hospitals.

We are in the midst of the perfect storm, as access continues to be a serious issue your HME provider can be counted on.

Special thanks to our friends at CMS for loosening up the requirements for replacement equipment in the areas hit by the hurricane, but in the meantime, until the paperwork is done the local HME providers are providing loaner equipment and taking oxygen tanks to their customers knowing they are losing money. Contrary to the reputation of HME providers as bad apples, the opposite is true. The majority are hardworking small business owners who employ local members of their community. We support our communities and take pride in caring for those we serve.

In closing, please look at the benefits the local HME providers bring to the continuum of care and pay us fairly to reflect the service and equipment we provide to all.

— Regina Gillispie, RRT, CEO, Best Home Medical, Barboursville & Nitro, West Va.