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On the Move

by: Elizabeth Deprey - Friday, February 7, 2014

This past month, my cold calls have been full of conversations about two things: The ALJ kerfuffle Theresa wrote about a little while ago, and the weather.

“It’s been a very unusual winter,” Carolyn Sluiter at Freeport Home Medical told me, in a bit of an understatement. 

The Midwest, (where Sluiter is based, in Freeport, Ill.) has seen double-digit negative temperatures this winter. Even in Maine, we call that "wicked cold."

Freeport has had to change come delivery dates, but says providing HME hasn’t been as tough, since oxygen patients aren’t going out and therefore don’t need refills as often. 

It’s also been pretty quiet in the store—which works out, since her staff has also had trouble coming in on winter’s worst days. 

Provider James Hagan also says there’ve been few issues at Jeffersonville, Ind.-based Community Home Medical. Luckily, he’s seen more snow than ice, and has been able to get his deliveries out without incident. Expecting harsher weather, he stocked up on extra oxygen tanks that he hasn’t had to deliver. 

“It cost me a couple hundred to be proactive, and we ate that cost,” he said. “But we had to make sure we had what our patients needed.” 

The biggest problems for provider Dave Beshoar, president of Medserv Equipment, based in Palatine, Ill., have been trying to deliver amidst the drifting snow. 

“We have to use caution, and drive slow,” he said. 

So, for the most part, providers say it’s normal to complain about the extreme cold, but they’ve actually been doing fine.

Beshoar summed it up: “Most people expect cold in the winter.”

 

by: Elizabeth Deprey - Monday, January 27, 2014

I’m not sure if you’ve seen this map of the U.S. bouncing around the Internet over the past couple of days. It’s based on Google’s auto-fill feature, where a user begins to type a question, and Google fills in the end of the question with the most common ending. 

For each state, the map-maker typed in, “Why is [state] so” to see what Google filled in the blank with. 

In Maine, where HME News is based, the most common question is “Why is Maine so white?” OK, then.  A favorite of mine: Why is Texas so big?

It got me thinking—what are common questions people might have about HME?

Some of the terms I typed in brought up no results: complex rehab, DMEPOS, DME, HME, and even home medical equipment. 

Wheelchairs brought up “Why are wheelchairs so expensive?” Same for diabetes test strips. 

Competitive bidding gets three results: 

Why is competitive bidding so important? Why is competitive bidding often considered to be counterproductive? Why is competitive bidding bad?

Interesting, huh?

But the real winner in this game is Medicare:

Why is Medicare so expensive? Why is Medicare so confusing? Why is Medicare so complicated? 

Please feel free to comment on any HME-related search results you find.

by: Elizabeth Deprey - Friday, January 17, 2014

Now I know it’s a few weeks past Christmas, but I just had to share this story with you guys. 

A man named Phil Pavone owns A-Z Pawn in Norwich, Conn. Every year, he buys and collects donations of motorized wheelchairs, refurbishes them and gives them away at Christmas to people who cannot afford them. 

Can you imagine? He’s given out more than 100 power wheelchairs at this point. He finds these people through ads, calling it "The Gift of Mobility Change a Life Giveaway.”

“I advertise and have people, ‘Tell me their story.’ You can't keep a dry eye when reading these letters,” Pavone wrote in a piece to the Hartford Courant. “These are people that are suffering and for some reason or another don't qualify for a motorized wheelchair. This year I have received over 70 letters.”

You guys all know the work that goes into refurbishing a power wheelchair; this guy does it all for free for no reason other than there’s a need in his community. 

Apparently, I'm not the only reporter who's eye was caught by this story.

Local newspaper The Bulletin covered the giveaway this year and interviewed some of the recipients. 

One of the best parts of this story? Pavone invited state Sen. Cathy Osten, 19th District and told her what he thought about limiting access to mobility devices.

“It’s totally, totally, totally, totally unfair,” he said.

Topic:
by: Elizabeth Deprey - Friday, January 10, 2014

I don’t know who makes the videos for 101 Mobility, but they are beautiful. 

You guys probably remember the video they posted when the company helped create Halloween costumes for children who use wheelchairs. 

This week, 101 Mobility sent me a video about Army Staff Sergeant Alex Dillmann, who was injured during his second deployment to Afghanistan and became paralyzed from the chest down.

National nonprofit Homes for Our Troops—an organization dedicated to making sure that severely injured veterans like Alex get the specially adaptive homes they need—called on 101 Mobility to take part in a plan to build a completely accessible home. HME News got a head’s up that this was going on and ran a note about it in last month’s issue. 

I was glad to see an update this week from 101 Mobility: SSG Dillmann and his wife now have their home, after what sounds like an extensive build.

The universally designed home’s construction began in January 2013 and was successfully completed in December 2013 thanks to hard work and generous donations from countless volunteers, local contractors such as Aziz Construction, and accessibility equipment providers like Mowen, Harmar, and 101 Mobility. Dennis Clouser, owner of 101 Mobility Tampa, says SSG Dillmann deserves the very best. “What we’re doing for him just seems so minor compared to what he’s done for us,” he said.

Trust me: Watch this video.

 

by: Elizabeth Deprey - Thursday, December 26, 2013

Every few months, I like to take a few minutes and snoop at some HME providers' Facebook pages to see if there's anything going on that HME News should get in touch about. The Friday afternoon before HME News HQ's Christmas break seemed like the perfect time—and I'm glad I did! It seems lots of you guys are in the holiday and giving spirit.

Here is a roundup of all the good news I spotted:

1st America Home Medical Equipment & Infusion Services of Valdosta, Ga., donated $1 to The Partnership Cancer Fund for every “like” they received on Facebook by the end of the day Sunday 12/15/2013. $1,000 min - $5,000 max. 

J & L Pharmacy & Home Medical Equipment of Georgetown, Ky. brought in Santa for kids to meet Dec. 17.

For years, the Harrisburg, Ill., location of Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy, Home Medical Equipment, and Oxygen has had a $20 gift exchange between employees to celebrate the holidays. For the third year in a row, the employees decided as a group to put that $20 towards helping children that are less fortunate. They decided that all money raised would go to the "Snowflake Fund," a charity by the Harrisburg Elks Lodge #1058 who provide Christmas gifts to the less fortunate children in the area. All the employees raised $520, which the provider then matched for a grand total of $1,040.

Binson's Home Health Care Centers of Centerline, Mich., are collecting items for the Desert Angels Foundation through Jan. 2 at all of its locations…The Binson brothers also cooked up a breakfast feast Dec. 19 for more than 200 of the provider's employees.

Columbus Home Medical of Columbus, Ga., had a “fabulous” Holiday Open House Dec. 12. “We thank all of our referrals and the opportunity to serve your patients,” the provider wrote. 

All-Ways Accessible  of Concord, N.H., drafted their vice president of public relations, Waldo the Bear, into collecting Toys for Tots. 

Buckeye Home Medical and Quality Home Health in Huntsville, Tenn., joined forces this year to raise money for Alzheimer's Tennessee. Its team, "Memory Warriors," was recognized for raising the most money in Scott County. 

Family Home Health Care Supplies & Equipment of Herrin, Ill., posted photos and news about its 22nd annual Family Home Health Care Toy Drive (22 years!)

Englewood, Colo.-based Accessible Systems recruited a “safety elf” to showcase its accessibility products. (The photos they posted are great.)

Feel free to comment below if you have good news to share. Happy Holidays!

 

by: Elizabeth Deprey - Wednesday, December 18, 2013

One thing I’ve wondered about lately is: what happened to The Scooter Store’s employees?

I imagine the call center employees got absorbed back into the New Braunfels job market, or moved on to new towns with other opportunities. 

I know a company named IBEX Global took over The Scooter Store’s New Braunfels location. As of late last month, they’d hired 250 call center employees with plans for 600 total.

I’d heard through the grapevine that employees of The Scooter Store’s complex rehab arm, Alliance Seating and Mobility, seem to have landed other complex rehab jobs elsewhere. But what about the mobility people stationed strategically around the country to deliver The Scooter Store’s equipment?

Well, at least two have landed with another HME provider. 

“They’ve been a great asset to our business,” said LuAnn Davis, co-owner of Springfield, Ill.-based Personal Mobility. “They’re very knowledgeable about the equipment and paperwork, and they’re going to help us grow.”

One gentleman, a young father of six, was about to take a job with the phone company before joining Personal Mobility. He’s now putting his ATP skills to good use, she said. The other used to manage the local Scooter Store location and now manages Personal Mobility’s rehab department. 

Davis says the culture at Personal Mobility is different, as is the documentation process, but the basic knowledge of equipment and paperwork for both providers is the same. 

“It’s been a great fit for all of us,” said Davis. 

Now if only The Scooter Store’s patients could manage a smooth transition. Davis says patients call Medicare and hear they are all set to get repairs done by a new provider; Medicare tells Personal Mobility the 13th month hasn’t been paid on the chairs and she can’t touch them. Davis is awaiting letters from The Scooter Store stating patients own their equipment, but hasn't seen any yet. Sounds like there’s yet another wrinkle in the repair conundrum…

by: Elizabeth Deprey - Tuesday, December 10, 2013

I’ve written twice now about CMS’s plan to set up some complex rehab codes as capped rental—and I still can’t quite believe it.

When I talked to Rita Hostak about it in July, she said Medicare planned to save $130 million, based on the fact that a lot of capped rentals get returned when the patient is done using them. However, Rita told me, that’s not how complex rehab works. 

Rita, with 170 stakeholders, told CMS about this as well. 

CMS seems to have ignored the fact that complex rehab is individually configured for people with long-term disabilities and gone ahead with its proposed rule, marking it a “final rule” at the end of last month

The reaction I’ve heard from providers and other stakeholders: complete disbelief.

“Now is the time for the agency to stop acting in a vacuum,” Alex Bennewith, vice president, government relations at United Spinal wrote to me this morning. “Consumers are saying enough is enough!”

Stakeholders are rallying the troops, contacting top people at CMS and reaching out to the gentlemen who sponsored H.R. 942 and S. 948 (bills that would create a separate benefit for complex rehab) to try to get this changed before the April implementation date. 

It seems pretty clear cut to me; the savings aren’t there, and trickling payments for expensive equipment over 13 months will put providers in a serious financial quandary, which is sure to affect access. 

“Consumers rely on access to customized equipment and related services to enable them to live the lives they choose, from going to work, attending school, making medical appointments, and being productive members of the society in which they live,” Bennewith wrote.

Time will tell if stakeholders can make that message clear to lawmakers, since it apparently fell on deaf ears at CMS.

 

by: Elizabeth Deprey - Thursday, December 5, 2013

When I was playing post-Thanksgiving catch-up earlier this week, I couldn’t help but notice that at least 3/4 of the headlines mentioning wheelchairs were all about one topic: a way to drive a wheelchair with a tongue piercing

Now, we’re all familiar with the sip-n-puff, where the wheelchair user breathes air in or out of the device to move his or her wheelchair around. 

This new invention out of Georgia Tech involves getting a metal barbell tongue piercing to lean left or right to control a wheelchair—or even a digital device. 

No doubt about it, this thing is cool. They’re even saying this will be on the market in 2015 (wonder if Medicare will cover it?).

But still, there is a lot of cool HME. Why did this idea take mainstream media—even news outlets in other countries—by storm?

Could it be the chance to use a graphic with a tongue piercing? Could it be celebrating an American invention around one of America’s favorite holidays? Could it be that human-interest stories like this are easy to pick up for story quotas as a lot of reporters take the holiday and days surrounding it off? 

Hard to say. I know that our community will be happy to hear about something that will make a wheelchair user’s life easier no matter what time of year it is. And if it comes with a cool graphic, all the better.

by: Elizabeth Deprey - Monday, November 25, 2013

We all know eating healthy is a key part of avoiding HME-requiring conditions like sleep apnea. Most of the year, it's challenging but not terrible. But now it's that time of year again...the time of communal office goodies.

First came the Milky Ways, then the Twix bars, then more and more chocolate as coworkers drop off unwanted Halloween candy. I managed to resist, but it took printing to a different printer for a week or so to save myself from temptation. 

That was just the tip of the iceberg, though. Today there was some kind of popcorn with chocolate and nuts. It’s hard to resist popcorn. It’s mostly just air and it used to be a vegetable. I’ve survived Day 1 by trying hard not to look too closely at it. 

Pretty soon there will be brownies and cookies and fancy chocolates…we’re heading for dangerous times, my friend. 

I’ve been trying to look for healthier recipes to help me survive the season, but the secret for most people seems to be Splenda and/or sugar free pudding. Hmm.

I did find these peanut butter cookies. They’ve been “healthified.”

And I may have spotted the white whale on Pinterest the other day: a pecan pie recipe from Cooking Light. It still has a cup of corn syrup. There's not much you can do to "healthify" pecan pie, alas.

I'll keep looking for recipes and keep trying not to look at the communal goodies...But I think, in the end, I’m just going to give in and eat a cookie or two, and maybe take up snowshoeing. 

by: Elizabeth Deprey - Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Picture this: A frail shut-in watching a winter scene out a frosted window, illuminated by a single candle on a nightstand. 

Does this sound like the life your patients lead? Not so much. They’re out in the community, working, enjoying their families and living life. So why does the mainstream press persist in using the term “wheelchair-bound” in its coverage of anyone who uses a wheelchair?

I try to keep an eye on news about wheelchairs and scooters around the country, and I see “wheelchair-bound” in headlines nearly every day. Even worse are the headlines that read, “Wheelchair boy receives ramp from local charity.” 

Nope, they’re not talking about a superhero. Wheelchair boy/man/woman/girl is a term these papers actually use to describe people who use wheelchairs.  

This had been bugging me for a while; then today I came across a couple of articles about the awkward and impolite issues around wheelchair use.

National Seating and Mobility tweeted about “5 Awkward Situations Only People in Wheelchairs Face,” including a handshake a wheelchair user couldn’t return that turned into a head pat. Yep. 

The Huffington Post also picked up the article, “Stop Saying 'Wheelchair-Bound' And Other Outdated And Offensive Terms To People With Disabilities.” 

Of course, I’m far from perfect and going too far in the name of political correctness is sometimes worse than being politically incorrect.

But I say “wheelchair-bound” has got to go. It’s so old-fashioned and inaccurate that it’s almost deliberately offensive. It’s also against AP Stylebook rules. 

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