2009: The year in review

Thursday, December 17, 2009

December is a time to take stock. With that in mind, I compiled a list of the year’s 10 most viewed stories on hmenews.com, and while there weren’t many surprises (stories about the oxygen cap and oxygen reform dominate the list), there were a few that, I’ll admit, caught me off guard.

All oxygen,

all the time

The No. 1 viewed story, with 16,062 views, was “Oxygen cap: CMS releases more details.” This isn’t a surprise. The year kicked off with a bang Jan. 1, when Medicare began capping reimbursement for patients that had been on oxygen for three years. This story details how, while the policy went into effect at the beginning of the month, it wasn’t until Jan. 27 that Medicare filled providers in on details like how to continue billing for contents.

Another story about the oxygen cap made the list at No. 8, with 6,977 views: “Oxygen: Stakeholders share new details.” The story details the industry’s efforts to get Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., to sponsor a bill that would eliminate the cap. The bill, introduced in May, now has 82 co-sponsors.

But as you know, the oxygen cap took a back seat to oxygen reform. Stories about the controversial efforts to revise the benefit, mainly to avoid possible future cuts, snagged the No. 4 and 9 positions on the list, with 8,718 and 6,178 views. “Oxygen reform efforts shift” and “Oxygen reform: State associations withhold support” both detail the difficulty that the industry, particularly AAHomecare, has faced in trying to complete this daunting task.

Then oxygen reform took a back seat to national competitive bidding.

The problem that won’t go away

Two stories about competitive bidding made the list at No. 5 and No. 6: “Competitive bidding heats up,” with 7,788 views; and “Rule resurrects competitive bidding,” with 7,388 views. Again, these aren’t surprises. The stories detail competitive bidding’s re-start, after an 18-month delay, and efforts to further delay or eliminate the program.

Oxygen reform and competitive bidding are very much to-be-continued stories, and we expect them to continue to dominate our headlines in 2010.

As AHP goes, so goes

the industry?

The No. 2 story on the list, with 11,079 views, surprised me: “American HomePatient faces big-time trouble.” The story details the provider’s struggles to pay back $233.6 million in debt. This is a story that we continue to follow (see page 19) and one that we continue to get positive feedback on. A provider called me just the other day to say, “Thanks for running that story on American HomePatient.” I wish I had had the foresight to ask her why she was so interested. Is AHP the biggest competitor in her area, which means she has a lot to gain if they go under? Or does she believe as AHP goes, so goes the industry? One thing’s for sure: We’ll make stories like these a priority in 2010.

A lightning rod

The No. 7 story on the list, with 6,977 views, surprised me, but it shouldn’t have: “VGM takes on Scooter Store, Pride Mobility.” The story details VGM’s criticism of The Scooter Store for engaging in business practices that, it believes, have helped ignite a government backlash against the industry. It also details VGM’s criticism of Pride for continuing to do business with The Scooter Store, while other manufacturers, like Invacare, do not. The Scooter Store is a lightning rod. A recent HME News TV interview with President and CEO Doug Harrison attracted an impressive 1,392 views—by far the most in our TV history.

Rounding out the list at No. 3 and No. 10: “Obama’s budget targets healthcare reform,” with 8,773 views (remember the days when reform was an opportunity for the industry, not a blow to the knee?); and “Industry descends on Capitol Hill,” with 6,117 views (this is a true testament to the importance of AAHomecare’s annual fly-in).

To read any of these stories, go to our Web site, hmenews.com, click on “back issues” in the upper right-hand corner, and type the headline into the search box.

See you next year!