AAH supports accreditation plan

Sunday, August 31, 2003

ALEXANDRIA, Va. - AAHomecare, after much in-house discussion and contact with its membership, has decided to support a provision of the Senate’s Medicare reform legislation that calls for HME providers to become accredited by a recognized, independent accreditation organization.

The trade group believes Congress, if it implements such a requirement, should “account for the diverse nature of the DME industry by allowing for flexibility in the way DME providers comply with these requirements.”

By flexibility, the association means that Congress should recognize as “deemed” those companies that are currently accredited by national accreditation organizations, essentially JCAHO, ACHC and CHAP; and that rehab and other specialty HME providers should be able to seek accreditation from organizations that set up programs specifically tailored to their businesses.

The trade’s group’s position also calls for Congress to involve the industry when developing new quality standards and to extend the deadline for compliance from three to five years.

Although the Senate called for mandatory accreditation in its version of Medicare reform legislation, the House bill did not. A conference committee is now reconciling differences between the bills, and it is there that the issue of accreditation will be sorted out.

Some industry observers believe that if conferees prefer the Senate’s call for a 7-year CPI freeze for DME to the House’s call for competitive bidding, then mandatory accreditation will also become a requirement for participation in the Medicare program.

The association’s support of mandatory accreditation is not without controversy since the industry is evenly split between those who support the Senate initiative and those who do not (See HME NewsPoll, July 2003). Many critics of the proposal cringe over the addition of another layer of cost to doing business.

“And I would agree with them if it turns out to being just another hoop,” said Steve Knoll, immediate past chairman of AAHomecare and president of Knoll Patient Supply in Topeka, Kansas, an ACHC-accredited company. “My personal experience is that the accreditation process, however flawed, helped me understand how to be a better healthcare provider.”

Knoll said AAHomecare wants to ensure that Congress decides upon a “reasonable solution” that both raises the bar but that does not increase costs to a level that would make it impossible for AAHomecare members and other healthcare providers to participate.

Initially, AAHomecare had supported the endorsement of licensure provisions as one way to address the Senate’s call for higher standards. But the association backed off that recommendation after noting that too few states have licensure and that some state licensure programs aren’t nearly as rigorous as the Senate’s plans for accreditation.

“There are states out there with licensure, and you can be licensed,” said Tim Pontius, vice chair of AAHomecare and president of Young Medical Equipment in Toledo, Ohio, a JCAHO-accredited company. “But if you look at the components of that licensure bill, that’s probably not where the bar needs to be.” HME