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by: Mike Moran - Thursday, December 10, 2009

I just cannot believe all this stuff coming out about Tiger Woods. The count is now up to 10 mistresses, with two of them being porn stars!

I can't believe it.

For years I've watched Tiger on TV and marveled over his golfing genius. I'll continue to watch him (he is, after all, the best golfer that's ever lived), but I'll never look at him the same way again. I'm not casting judgment here. It's just that what Tiger has done off the course is really a bit beyond what I'm capable of imagining.

Ten mistresses, two of them porn stars.

Sex-enhancing drugs.

Is this a joke or something? This is not the Tiger Woods I thought I knew, not at all.

Really, the level of my disbelief is so great that I'd be less surprised if someone with two heads stopped by my house and tried to sell me a box of girl scout cookies. (If that ever happens, I will buy multiple boxes.)

Anyways, through all of this, I've been on the look out for a Tiger Woods/HME connection, and guess what? I've found one.

Popular industry speaker Vince Crew was recently on the nationally syndicated Jim Bohannon Show discussing what Tiger should do now. Appropriately, Vince is the author of "Everyday Ethics, Everlasting Consequences."

To hear Vince's take on Tiger, go  here and click on Vince Crew In Person and go to audio interviews.

While you're doing that, I'll be monitoring Google for word of mistress number 11.

— Mike Moran

by: Mike Moran - Tuesday, December 8, 2009

I ran across this headline today on the Canadian NewsWire: "Ontario oxygen vendors shocked by lack of understanding of the Home Oxygen Program by the Auditor General's Office."

Our northern neighbors labor under the same misperceptions as do U.S. home respiratory providers. Specifically, it seems that that Canadian government doesn't understand that a whole bunch of services go into providing patients oxygen therapy.

Imagine that.

Canadian providers want to make one thing clear: "Ontario's home oxygen providers don't simply drop a machine off at the client's door and leave."

I'll let you read the article (press release) for yourself, but there is one big difference between Canadian and U.S. oxygen providers that I think you'll find interesting. Canadian providers get paid a lot more.

— Mike Moran

by: Mike Moran - Friday, December 4, 2009

Every now and then, some really irate person calls, emails or writes HME News and goes ballistic. To tell you the truth, I like hearing from Angry Man or Angry Woman because it usually indicates that we’ve struck a nerve. In this business, that’s always fun, provided you’ve reported a factual, unbiased story, expressed an honest opinion or supplied important information.

That happened earlier this week, when Angry Man emailed me to complain about an interview we ran on HME News TV with Scooter Store CEO Doug Harrison.

Here’s how the email exchange went:

Angry man: Why in the #%#$@&%! would you publicize the Scooter Store on your TV site??? Everywhere I travel, I find HME’s are frustrated because they lose scooter sales daily when customers complain, “If you won’t bill Medicare we can just go to the Scooter Store to buy one.” Why Medicare has never shut down their operation is beyond me.  The legitimate HME’s suffer while Medicare is billed for scooters for ambulatory consumers…What is wrong with this picture?!?

My response: We interview people. That’s what we do.

Angry Man: Maybe interview legit HME’s who are struggling to compete against the fraud you are supporting.

I understand where this anger comes from. Let's face it: The Scooter Store is a lightening rod. Many smaller independent HME providers feel the behemoth’s TV advertising has helped spike power wheelchair utilization and brought the wrath of CMS pouring down on the entire industry in the form of reimbursement cuts and regulatory burdens.

But as for claiming that The Scooter Store engages in fraudulent activity, well, I  have no knowledge of that. If The Scooter Store is breaking any rules, that’s up to CMS and other officials to determine—not me or Angry Man.

For the record, our HME News TV interview with Doug Harrison has been viewed nearly 1,000 times, making it by far our most popular video.

Not surprisingly, there’s more than a little interest in what the CEO of the industry’s largest power wheelchair provider has to say.

I guess that’s why I thought it was a good #%#$@&% idea to run it.

— Mike Moran

by: Mike Moran - Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Invacare and its CEO Mal Mixon received some nice recognition recently when Smart Business Cleveland presented each with a Medical Mutual 2009 Pillar Award. The award honors "businesses and individuals for outstanding contributions to their communities."

The list goes on and on, but here are some of the philanthropic endeavors Invacare and Mixon are involved in.

Invacare: The company is a corporate sponsor of several local, national and international organizations, including the Paralympics, the United Way of Greater Lorain County and Easter Seals.

Mixon: His current civic activities include serving as chairman of the board of The Cleveland Clinic Foundation, BioEnterprise and the Cleveland Institute of Music. In 2007, the Cleveland Institute of Music opened Mixon Hall, a state-of-the-art performance hall. In addition, he established a chair in entrepreneurial studies at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University.

Congratulations to all the folks at Invacare. This is something to be proud of.

- Mike Moran

by: Mike Moran - Tuesday, December 1, 2009

If you want to pitch in and help the industry deep-six national competitive bidding, here's your chance.

On Wednesday, Dec. 2, The VGM Group will conduct a “Shut Down the Switchboard” event. The purpose of “Shut Down the Switchboard” is to flood the congressional phone lines in an attempt to garner as much support  as possible in a single afternoon for H.R. 3790, a bill that would eliminate NCB.

Go to VGM's Web site for more details.

When properly delivered the facts, lawmakers have in large part been very supportive of this legislation. The bill currently has 76 co-sponsors. That's a long way from where it needs to be if it's to be included in a larger health care package.  With your help, the HME industry can ultimately reach the 218 co-sponsors needed for majority support.

Now go burn up those phone lines!

- Mike Moran

by: Mike Moran - Wednesday, November 25, 2009

If you can help it, never miss an opportunity to set the record straight when it comes to ignorance about the HME industry. And as we all know, there’s plenty of ignorance out there.

Here’s a perfect example. Carol Gentry, the editor of Health News Florida published an editorial today, absurdly insinuating that the HME industry has no interest in controlling Medicare fraud and abuse.

Once he saw that, Michael Reinemer, AAHomecare’s vice president, communications and policy, took action. At 1:51 p.m., he emailed Gentry to protest.

In part, here’s what he wrote:

Carol, it’s ironic that you would publish a smear of durable medical equipment advocates, suggesting in your article today that we tolerate fraud.

Today we endorsed the very anti-fraud bill you discuss – Sen. LeMieux’s bill, which draws on a number of the provisions we proposed to Congress earlier this year in our 13-point anti-fraud plan, attached.

You owe the durable medical equipment community and Congressman Meek in particular an apology and a correction.

I’d like to hear back from you by Monday, Nov. 30.

Gentry got back to him well before Monday.

At 2:09 p.m., she emailed back:

Mea culpa, will run 2 the computer and so note. Thanks!

At 2:20 p.m. she added in a second email:

To answer your question, the competitive bidding pilot has more to do with controlling costs than with fraud, but it would logically also have a discouraging effect on fraud, I would think, because there wouldn’t be any way for the fly-by-night players to gain contracts. If I’m wrong I’m sure you’ll set me straight.

By the way, has the association endorsed the Grassley bill as well? What’s your thinking on that?

If you notice that a journalist reports incorrect information about the HME industry, you’ve got to demand a correction or clarification. If they have any professional ethics, they’ll apologize and atone. A correction never has the impact of the original mistake, but it's better than nothing and a necessary part of the industry's ongoing efforts to educate the public about HMEs benefits.

Speaking of competitive bidding, here’s a good piece of advice from The VGM Group:

Due to the holiday break, your Senators and Congressmen are currently in their home states until Monday, Nov. 30.  This is your opportunity to seek their support in person.  Contact their district offices to seek appointments and check their websites for a current schedule of Health Care Reform-related public appearances.

Continue contacting your Congressperson seeking their support of H.R. 3790. Also, contact your Senators and ask for their support on the health reform bill.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Mike Moran

by: Mike Moran - Tuesday, November 24, 2009

An article in today's Wall Street Journal does a nice job explaining how Medicare's 36-month oxygen cap has hurt patients and HME providers.

After all the "hit pieces" uninformed mainstream journalists have written about the HME industry, this article is a breathe of fresh air. I like that it focuses on the plight of small businesses and patients for a change, and not fraud and abuse.

At some point, those who have it out for the HME industry are going to have to give up their crazed obsession. If this article says anything, it's that enough is enough.

— Mike Moran

by: Mike Moran - Friday, November 20, 2009

I had an interesting talk with Steve Serra last week. Steve is the vice president of Henry Ford Health Products, the $40 million HME arm of the giant ($4 billion) Henry Ford Health System.

Serra has joined forces with a research company and embarked on a project to redefine and enlarge the role HME providers play in the healthcare continuum. That’s a must, he says, because as reimbursement dwindles, if the industry doesn’t change its value proposition, providers will end up driving around dropping off low-cost products. That doesn’t sound like much fun, does it?

The industry’s current message—its value proposition—that homecare is cost effective and patient preferred “misses the point,” Serra says.

I think he's on to something.  After all, the current mantra hasn't stemmed the tide of reimbursement cuts, has it? I think we've got to add some muscle to it, or maybe throw it out all together and come up with something that resonates with more people.

According to Serra, here's HME's real value proposition: “When a patient needs to get out of the hospital in 10 minutes or a half hour, there is an industry prepared to move the patient to the home."

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This critical role in the continuum of care is a key point because if competitive bidding runs its course and the number of HMEs declines precipitously, the impact on the continuum of care—the patient and healthcare system—will be dramatic.

“There will be enough companies that want to take care of the hospitals,” Serra said. “The real losers are going to be the nursing homes that need to move people out. The emergency rooms that don't want people in the fist place. The PT department that needs a patient taken care of. And so on and so on and so on.”

So the question is: What will happen to these patients if competitive bidding and other reimbursement cuts significantly decrease the number of HME providers? How will patients go home when they are ready to go home? And if they can’t go home in a timely fashion, what will the impact be on the continuum of care and healthcare costs.

Those are questions that the HME industry should ask CMS bureaucrats and DC lawmakers.

— Mike Moran

PS
We’ll have more on Serra’s research in the future, but check this out.

Serra contends that to prevent competitive bidding from transforming HME providers into distributors of low cost products, the industry must create a role for providers that begins earlier in the patient’s disease state. Not, for example, four years after the patient’s been diagnosed with COPD and needs oxygen.

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This new role would be multidimensional, combining retail, products, clinical services and education.

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To help do define this new role, Serra’s working with a research firm and has begun searching for a physician in the Henry Ford Health System to spearhead the effort and give it credibility.

“We’re approaching this as a academic project,” Serra said. “We’re just in the beginning of interviewing physicians. We’ve been out interviewing policy stakeholders in Michigan, like the Michigan Hospital Association. (We’ve) met with the president of a local university that has a medical school. We’re trying to define what (the new HME) space is.”

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If you ask me, that is pretty exciting stuff.

by: Mike Moran - Thursday, November 19, 2009

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As part of National Homecare Month, AAHomecare is asking providers and others to sign a petition asking Congress to stop cuts to home care. AAHomecare states:

Homecare provides tremendous value to more than 8 million Americans who require some type of medical care in the home. It is a cost-effective alternative to institutional care, and home medical equipment can be provided and maintained for just dollars a day, which is why homecare is an important part of the solution to our nation's healthcare crisis. Current and planned regulations threaten homecare quality and availability."

The petition has 101 signatures; the goal: 1,000. Sign the petition here.

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by: Mike Moran - Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I'm a statistics geek so when I saw a reference to the Better Business Bureau on TV the other night, I decided to visit the group’s Web site to see if it included any information on home medical equipment. And guess what? It did.

I found HME buried in the BBB’s 2008 Statistics (the 2009 edition isn’t out yet). This voluminous document runs 92 pages and includes about 3,840 “Industry Descriptions.” I say "about" because the entries are not numbered, so I did some estimating based on the number of entries on each page.

buy Countess Dracula As far as I could tell, here are the report’s relevant categories (when it comes to rank, the higher the number the better):

Boot Camp psp Diabetes Services & supplies ranked 586 with 6 complaints
Hospital & Medical Equipment & Supplies ranked 163 with 1,042 complaints

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Oxygen Therapy Equipment ranked 581 with 11 complaints.
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Prosthetic Devices ranked 564 with 28 complaints
Wheelchair Lifts and Ramps ranked 543 with 49 complaints.
Wheelchairs: ranked 518 with 74 complaints.

Not bad. I'm not sure what the nature of the complaints were, but it would be nice to see Hospital & Medical Equipment & Supplies improve its rank a little. On the positive side, this industry settled 70% of the complaints filed against it, which looks very good relative to other industries. We all make mistakes. The key is to own up and make it right.

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Here are the rankings of some other industries. The comparisons to HME are not apples to apples because these industries, for the most part, are much larger, but they are interesting none the less:

Airlines: 34
New Care Dealers: 2
Used Care Dealers: 7
Banks: 3
Credit Cards and Plans: 15

Dentists: 50
Extended Warranty Contract Service Companies: 194
Fishing Bait: 584
Retail Furniture: 8
Hair Curlers: 583
Insurance Companies: 27
Internet Shopping: 4
Pizza: 190

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Telephone companies: 9
Television-Cable: 5

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I kind of doubt CMS will look at these statistics and say: "Hey, those HME guys treat their customers pretty good." But it is worth noting that when it comes to the BBB ranking, the U.S. Government comes in at number 530, right in line with HME.

— Mike Moran

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