2014: Orthotics, big boxes, deals

Friday, January 23, 2015

One of the challenges of covering the specialty providers beat is that it encompasses so many—and wildly different—niche markets in the HME space.

Nowhere was that more evident than in this year’s list of top specialty provider stories, which included diabetes, home infusion, sleep and…orthotics.

Now, I like covering the orthotics market, and as more providers have added orthotics it has presented greater opportunity for stories. Still, you could have knocked me over with a lightweight shoe insole when I learned the top story in 2014 was “Orthotics codes become trickier to bill.” As the story illustrates, any time CMS starts changing up codes, reimbursements or requirements, the agency leaves confusion in its wake.


Stories on sleep are always among the most popular and two such stories were among the most read. In “Reporter’s notebook: Walmart brochure ‘disparages’ providers,” the big-box retailer claimed to offer a lower-cost and more convenient option for CPAP supplies. Needless to say, that didn’t sit too well with providers, nor did “Private players put squeeze on sleep,” which discussed burdensome policy changes by private insurers.


Finally, there were two financial stories: “Why is Walgreens shopping its home infusion biz?” and “PE firm acquires Liberty Medical.”

It’s possible Walgreens, which entered the market in 2007, just thought it was time to move on. It’s also possible that the still-strong appetite for home infusion providers (CVS Caremark acquired Coram for $2.1 billion at the start of the year) made a possible sale all the more attractive. At press time, Walgreens was said to be in talks with private equity firm Madison Dearborn Partners. 

And finally, the sale of Liberty for $68.5 million just goes to show that, despite the upheaval in the industry, there are people out there who believe in the value of home medical equipment and supplies.