In brief: AAH collects funds, Senate green-lights HHS chief
WASHINGTON – AAHomecare has kicked off a campaign to raise $250,000 in the next two years to develop and launch HME Audit Key, a tool to track audit activity. “This is a massive, long-term project that will benefit the entire industry and AAHomecare is committed to making sure it is provided with the resources it needs to succeed,” the association stated in a bulletin to members last week. Members of AAHomecare’s executive committee and board of directors, along with The VGM Group and The MED Group, have already committed almost $44,000 to the project in the first two weeks. “Their generous support alone will not be nearly enough,” the association stated. Details about how to make a contribution are available by downloading this overview and contribution form.
Senate green lights Burwell as HHS chief
WASHINGTON – The Senate, in a bipartisan 78-17 vote, has confirmed Sylvia Mathews Burwell to replace Kathleen Sebelius as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), according to news reports. Burwell has been the director of the Office of Management and Budget since April 2013. Prior to that, she was president of the Walmart Foundation and president of the Global Development Program of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, according to reports. Though responsible for 11 agencies that make up HHS, Burwell’s early focus will be continuing to implement the Affordable Care Act. She will likely take over when she is sworn in today, June 9, according to reports.
Government overpays Medicare Advantage plans, report says
WASHINGTON – The federal government overpaid nearly $70 billion to Medicare Advantage (MA) plans between 2008 and 2013, according to a new report from the Center for Public Integrity (CPI). CPI found that the risk scores used by providers to charge the government more for sicker patients rose sharply in MA plans in at least 1,000 counties between 2007 and 2011, boosting taxpayer costs by more than $36 billion over the estimated costs for caring for patients in standard Medicare. “In more than 200 of these counties, the cost of some MA plans was at least 25% higher than the cost of providing standard Medicare coverage,” the report states. “The wide swing in costs was most evident in five states: South Dakota, New Mexico, Colorado, Texas and Arkansas.”Dominated by private insurers, Medicare Advantage now covers nearly 16 million Americans at a cost expected to top $150 billion this year, according to CPI. The report is the first in a four part series. CPI is suing CMS to release copies of program audits, billing data and the identities of plans suspected of overcharging the government.
Judge protects ResMed patent
SAN DIEGO – An International Trade Commission (ITC) judge has ruled that Taiwanese manufacturer Apex infringes a ResMed patent protecting an integrated humidifier used in its CPAP devices. Per the June 4 ruling, Apex can no longer import or sell its XT and iCH CPAP devices with these humidifiers in the U.S. “This ITC victory is validation that our customers should not accept imitations,” stated David Pendarvis, chief administrative officer and global general counsel at ResMed, in a press release. ResMed will ask the ITC to also impose a fine on Apex for any XT and iCH CPAP devices with integrated humidifiers that it has sold in the U.S. to date. The patent fight between ResMed and Apex began in March 2013, when ResMed asserted to the ITC that the XT and iCH CPAP devices infringed on patents. Apex in August agreed to an order prohibiting it from importing and selling the products in the U.S. Apex then redesigned the products and sought a ruling that its new CPAP devices avoided infringing the patents. In the June 4 ruling, the judge held that Apex continues to infringe the patents and stood by the July 2013 order prohibiting the manufacturer from importing and selling those products in the U.S. The judge also ruled, however, that Apex’s redesigned WiZard 220 mask does not infringe on patents. ResMed plans to appeal that decision.
Apex vows to continue legal battle
BREA, Calif. – Apex Medical will appeal an International Trade Commission (ITC) judge’s ruling that the humidifiers in its XT and iCH CPAP devices infringe on a ResMed patent, the company announced today. “We believe that this litigation has always been about something much more important to Apexthan the design of a water chamber,” stated President PJ Hsueh. “Apex offers an affordable yet high quality alternative to the market. Some largercorporations may attempt toeliminategood quality, legitimate competition wherever possible.We, however, believe that a market is only a healthy one whenthere is free and fair competition.”While the ITC didn’t rule in Apex’s favor on the humidifier, it did rule that the company’s Wizard 220 CPAP mask doesn’t infringe on a ResMed patent. Apex also notes that it has requested an Inter Partes Review (IPR) of the humidifier patent and four other patents, and that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has begun examining the validity of these patents.
Study: Technology can shape response to CPAP therapy
ANDOVER, Mass. – Users of SleepMapper, a mobile app and web-based solution from Philips Respironics, have a 22% higher adherence rate to PAP therapy than non-users, according to a study that the company released last week at SLEEP 2014. “Study results of SleepMapper demonstrate that technology can shape how patients respond to PAP therapy by improving engagement and motivation, and ultimately leading them to a better course of treatment for their chronic condition,” stated Dr. Mark Aloia, senior director of global clinical research for Philips Respironics, in a press release. SleepMapper provides patients with feedback on their individual adherence and therapy information, and uses empirically tested behavior change therapies to motivate them and keep them interested. To test the effectiveness of SleepMapper, researchers randomly analyzed more than 15,000 patients from the Philips Respironics EncoreAnywhere database and compared adherence and usage rates between those who were provided with SleepMapper upon initial PAP setup and those who were not. Patients in the first group achieved a 78% adherence rate based on CMS guidelines; those in the second group achieved a 56% rate. The study also found, for new patients struggling to manage and accept their therapy, 33% of those who were provided with SleepMapper were able to meet adherence guidelines within 90 days, compared to 11% of those who were not provided with the tool. Finally, the study found patients who were provided with SleepMapper slept an average of 1.4 hours longer on PAP.
NCART revamps websites
EAST AMHERST, N.Y. – NCART has unveiled new and improved websites for www.ncart.us and access2crt.org. “The sites have been completely redesigned to enhance the communication of CRT news, and to better promote CRT education and advocacy on both federal and state levels,” stated Don Clayback, executive director of NCART, in a bulletin to members. Improvements to the sites include: layouts that are easier to navigate; information that’s segregated under federal and state headlines; a tool that helps users conduct and track specific advocacy campaigns; educational materials that are updated regularly; and a blog that provides real-time information. While www.ncart.us is the home of NCART, access2crt.org is a non-denominational website. Originally created to advance efforts to create a separate benefit for complex rehab, access2crt.org has been redesigned to accommodate that and other federal and state issues.
Study shows link between OSA, diabetes
NEW YORK – A new study of more than 8,500 patients in Canada has demonstrated a link between obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and the development of diabetes, the American Thoracic Society announced June 6. The study included 8,678 adults with suspected OSA without diabetes at baseline who underwent a diagnostic sleep study between 1994-2010. These adults were monitored through May 2011 using health administrative data to examine the occurrence of diabetes. During follow up, 1,017 (11.7%) patients developed diabetes. The American Thoracic Society published the results of the study online and in its American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
Lawmaker gets 109 responses on bid program
WASHINGTON – Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Ohio, called on those in the HME industry to share their stories and perspectives on the competitive bidding program and 109 responded to his call of action, according to AAHomecare. Renacci used the comments to inform a roundtable discussion on the program that he hosted last week. Since his oxygen business was shut out of the Round 1 re-bid, Renacci has become a “huge champion” for the industry, AAHomecare stated in a bulletin to members this week.
Ackerman replaces Landauer as AAH treasurer
WASHINGTON – Steve Ackerman, president and CEO of Spectrum Medical, has joined AAHomecare’s executive committee as treasurer. He replaces Alan Landauer, chairman of Landauer Metropolitan, who has stepped down from the post but who will remain on the association’s board of directors. Ackerman is a 33-year veteran of the HME industry. He founded Spectrum Medical in 1983 to serve the Washington, D.C., metro area. He has been involved in state and national trade associations, and has been called before Congress and CMS as an expert on industry issues. “The only recommendation I have for the AAHomecare board, and for that matter the membership in general, is for everyone to be actively engaged in the recruitment of new members,” he stated in the bulletin. “There is strength in numbers.”
VGM to host congressional staffers at annual event
WATERLOO, Iowa – The VGM Group and People for Quality Care will host a town hall forum for congressional staffers during the Heartland Conference in June. During “Caring for the Aging and Disabled: How Investing in DME Saves the Government Money and Provides Better Care for Americans,” VGM officials will review the findings of a recent study that shows how the healthcare system and Medicare beneficiaries can save on long-term costs by investing in DME upfront, according to a release. The event, scheduled for Wednesday, June 11, at 1 p.m. CST, will also be broadcast live at www.twitter.com/qualitycare14.
Cape Medical moves resupply online
SANDWICH, Mass. – Cape Medical Supply on June 2 launched a MyResupply web portal, allowing its CPAP customers to reorder their supplies as if they were ordering a book on Amazon. “MyResupply will drastically cut down the time it takes our patients to get the medical supplies they need, helping us get the order processed and on the truck faster than ever before,” the company states in a blog. Cape Medical developed the portal with Brightree, which provides its integrated inventory management software. Because the portal interfaces with insurance providers and Medicare, customers can only reorder when they’re allowed to. “This cuts down on accidental reorders and helps us prevent fraud, while streamlining the billing process for the consumer and completely eliminating their need to interface with their insurance company,” the blog states.
Moneyline: ResMed, Liberator Medical, Aeroflow, Stable Step
ResMed Director Christopher Roberts has sold 25,000 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction on May 29. The stock was sold at an average price of $49.73 for a total value of about $1.2 million. Roberts now owns 101,988 shares in the company for a total value of about $5 million. A few days later, COO Robert Douglas sold 8,000 shares in a transaction on June 2 (total value of about $400,000) and Chief Administrative Officer and Global General Counsel David Pendarvis sold 5,000 shares in a transaction on June 3 (total value $248,800)…The board of directors at Liberator Medical Holdings approved on May 30 a cash dividend of $0.03 per common share to its shareholders. This is the sixth quarterly cash dividend to be paid by the company. It will be paid on July 10, 2014, to all shareholders of record as of the close of business on June 26, 2014. Liberator began trading on the New York Stock Exchange in November…Aeroflow Healthcare has seen 14% growth since January, the company announced in a May 29 press release. Buoying that growth: In January, the company acquired Air-Care Home Health in South Carolina. Aeroflow’s strategy includes buying existing HME companies to leverage the contracts it won as part of Medicare’s competitive bidding program. “Our goal is to bring Aeroflow’s unprecedented care and low costs to existing companies, while continually growing our patient base,” said Josh Hill, director of business development, in the release…Stable Step has acquired Archmolds. The acquisition will improve Stable Step’s orthotics offerings to include Archmolds’ full line of heat moldable insoles.
‘Enjoy Life’ program kicks off
ATLANTA – Sports n’ Spokes, the sports and recreation magazine of the Paralyzed Veterans of America, has teamed up with Life After Spinal Cord Injury, a nonprofit program of UroMed, and Wheel:Life, an online community, to encourage people with disabilities to “Get Out & Enjoy Life This Summer.” Now in its fourth year, the program kicks off with a photo contest with prize giveaways. This year’s theme is running free and the slogan is ROAM. The program will spotlight activities like adaptive sports, accessible amusement parts, inclusive vacation spots and other unique outings. The contest ends June 27.
Kevin Cooper, a respiratory therapist who works in sales for a medical supply company, has decided to open a storefront. “I’ve got a website where I’ve sold a lot of medical equipment online for the past four or five years, but this is going to be the first retail store,” he told the local newspaper. Cooper Medical Supply will offer a full line of equipment, ranging from wheelchairs to walkers to beds, in West Rome, Ga…Advanced Brain Monitoring announced last week that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted 510(k) clearance for Night Shift, a therapy for positional obstructive sleep apnea. Worn on the back of the neck, Night Shift begins to vibrate when users sleep on their back and slowly increases intensity until they change their position…A recent donation of mobility equipment by Ottobock will soon be on its way to Matagalpa, Nicaragua. The support is being given through Familias Especiales (Special Families), a nonprofit agency that helps families attain basic needs and services for handicapped children.
Pride Mobility Products has named Rick Michael as national sales manager, retail mobility, it announced June 3. Michael has 15 years of experience in the mobility industry, according to a release. Michael, along with Pride’s retail mobility team, will support providers in a variety of areas, from point-of-purchase displays to planning and financing. “Retail mobility is a winning strategy in today’s mobility marketplace,” said Andrew Pyrih, senior vice president of domestic sales, in the release…Ottobock has promoted Darrell Burnette to regional sales manager for the East region of the company’s Mobility Solutions sales team. Brunette joined Ottobock in 2011 as a territory sales representative covering Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C.