In brief: Bid relief becomes official, BioScrip restructures credit

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Friday, December 16, 2016

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama on Dec. 13 signed into law the 21st Century Cures Act, which offers some relief to HME providers in rural areas.

The bill, passed by the House of Representatives on Nov. 30 and the Senate on Dec. 7, will retroactively delay Medicare cuts that went into effect in non-competitive bidding areas from June 30, 2016, to Dec. 31, 2016, allowing providers to recoup six months worth of payments.

The same cuts will go back into effect, however, on Jan. 1, 2017.

Still, industry stakeholders say the bill sets the stage for legislative and regulatory action in 2017 to more broadly address unsustainable reimbursement for all providers.

“This is an important step forward in the ongoing effort to fix Medicare’s bidding program for HME,” said Tom Ryan, president and CEO of AAHomecare.

It’s still unclear, at this point, how CMS will follow through on the directive to delay the cuts.

The bill will also further delay Medicare’s plan to use bidding-derived prices for accessories for complex power wheelchairs for an additional six months, until July 1, 2017.

BioScrip restructures credit

DENVER – BioScrip has proposed an amendment to its original credit agreement that would restructure an existing revolving credit facility, providing immediate access to $15 million.

“As stated on our third quarter earnings conference call, BioScrip is in the beginning stages of implementing an 18 to 24-month turnaround strategy and is focused on optimizing operational efficiencies to drive profitable growth and deliver on our financial commitments,” said Daniel Greenleaf, CEO, in a statement.

For the fourth quarter of 2016, the company is performing better than expected, Greenleaf said, with revenues projected to be at the high end of previously announced ranges of $232 million to $239 million.

BioScrip also issued a statement on the potential impact of the 21st Century Cures Act, signed into law Dec. 13, which will impose an average sales price model on Part B infusion drugs effective Jan. 1, 2017.

“The company estimates that the Cures Act as written will result in reimbursement reductions impacting therapies representing approximately 3% to 4% of total current revenue,” the statement reads.“While we are disappointed with the passage of the Act and the potential implications for our Medicare patients, we are confident in our business model and in the ability of our team to reach a level of financial productivity that is more reflective of the true value of the company.”

BioScrip has suffered losses in recent quarters. Net revenues for the third quarter of 2016 were $224.5 million, a decrease of 9.2% from a year ago. Net losses from continuing operations were $11.1 million vs. $24.5 million. 

The company has shaken up its executive team, installing Daniel Greenleaf as its new president and CEO. Greenleaf previously held positions at Home Solutions, which BioScrip acquired in September, and Coram. At both companies, he is credited with turning around an underperforming company.

NJ Transit takes 11 off rails…

NEWARK, N.J. – Eleven New Jersey Transit train engineers or conductors have been temporarily removed from duty under a new program to assess fatigue-related conditions like obstructive sleep apnea, according to news reports. Under the program, launched in October, engineers and conductors who show indications of potential fatigue symptoms will be removed until they can document that they’ve controlled or corrected their conditions, according to reports. Previously, NJ Transit allowed engineers with sleep apnea to keep working as long as they were being treated. The program was launched after the crash of a train traveling from New York to Hoboken in September that killed one person and injured more than 100 others. The engineer of that train suffered from sleep apnea.

…Truck drivers challenge fed on sleep

GRAIN VALLEY, Miss. – The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association filed a petition on Dec. 14 challenging language related to sleep apnea in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s final rule on medical examiner certification, according to the Journal of Commerce. The appendix of the rule states: “If the medical examiner detects a respiratory dysfunction, that in any way is likely to interfere with the driver's ability to safely control and drive a commercial motor vehicle, the driver must be referred to a specialist for further evaluation and therapy." At question, according to the OOIDA, is whether or not that constitutes a recommendation or a requirement. The group also argues the language could violate a law that blocks the FMCSA from requiring sleep apnea testing for truck drivers without a formal rulemaking process.

Philips opens new distribution center

EAST HUNDINGTON, Pa. – Philips Sleep & Respiratory Care held a grand opening for its new distribution center here on Dec. 13. The new center allows Philips to consolidate functions at leased buildings elsewhere in Westmoreland County and maintain its staffing level of about 250 employees, according to Trib Total Media. The 260,000-square-foot center allows Philips to make 850,000 deliveries annually; on average, it can process 3,500 shipments a day, according to the newspaper. Philips is the first business to open in the new Westmoreland Distribution Park North. The center was specifically designed for Philips’ needs and cost between $4 million and $6 million, according to the newspaper.

VGM seeks Heartland speakers

WATERLOO, Iowa – The VGM Group is now accepting speaker proposals for the 16th annual Heartland Conference, slated for June 12-15. Organizers are looking for sessions on a variety of topics, including retail, billing and reimbursement, executive, operations, sleep and respiratory, rehab and legislative. “Heartland’s diverse educational program is designed to ensure that attendees leave each session equipped with effective strategies to achieve operational excellence,” said Sara Laures, VGM’s vice president of special projects and the chairwoman of the Heartland Conference. The theme of this year’s conference is “Where Community Meets Opportunity.” Proposals are due Jan. 13. For more information: www.vgmheartland.com/speak.

NCPA agreement offers digital benefits to members

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – The National Community Pharmacists Association has extended its partnership with RxWiki, a digital health company. The five-year agreement allows RxWiki to continue offering NCPA members benefits like an annual digital health check; content and a newsfeed to power social media or email marketing campaigns; and a digital pharmacist platform that allows pharmacies to access branded websites, e-newsletters and mobile apps. “With more and more patients seeking health care solutions online, it is critical for independent community pharmacies to have a solid digital presence and rethink how they communicate with patients,” said NCPA CEO Douglas Hoey in a statement.

NCART seeks more survey responses

WASHINGTON – The good news is, NCART has received responses from 22 states for its National CRT Medicaid Survey. The bad news is, it still needs responses from Arkansas, Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Wyoming. “We know everyone is busy, but if you are a CRT provider in one of these states, we ask that you complete the survey,” said Don Clayback, executive director of NCART, in a bulletin on Dec. 13. NCART has extended the deadline to complete the survey to Dec. 21. Providers that complete the survey will receive a complimentary copy of the results of the survey, probably some time in January. NCART launched the survey to identify states with access issues. It plans to use the results of the survey to support efforts to pass separate benefit recognition legislation in individual states.

bflow, Allegiance integrate

LOS ANGELES – bflow has finalized its integration with Allegiance Group, bringing its users automated private patient pay and debt collections. “The Allegiance Group solution fits tightly into our vision for a more automated workflow for bflow customers,” said Ted Jones, CEO of bflow, in a press release. “We know this solution provider has a proven track record for improving their customers’ revenue.” bflow, based here, is a software as a service (SaaS) HME billing software and business management solution. Allegiance Group, based in Overland Park, Kan., offers CollectPlus, a four-phase, automated, billing and collection system that features an integrated patient payment portal and call center. “By bringing the CollectPlus solution to the bflow software platform, bflow customers can take advantage of the built-in revenue cycle solution for their private pay A/R needs,” said Bruce Gehring, senior vice president of business development, at Allegiance Group.