In brief: Big names support bid delay, group surveys drivers on sleep

Friday, April 22, 2016

WASHINGTON – Senate Finance Committee leaders have asked CMS to delay applying the next round of Medicare reimbursement cuts in rural areas.

In an April 18 letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., express their concerns that six months isn’t long enough to detect and correct problems with the rollout of competitive bidding to non-bid areas.

“It is unlikely that CMS will be able to monitor, analyze, and make any necessary changes prior to July 1, 2016,” the letter states. “The ability of the real-time claims monitoring that CMS uses for items provided in competitive bidding areas to assess the short-term impact of the DMEPOS fee schedule rate reduction in non-competitive bidding areas is questionable.”

CMS started rolling out bid pricing to non-bid areas on Jan. 1. It plans to complete the transition on July 1.

The letter also calls for CMS to monitor changes in the percentage of HME providers accepting Medicare business since Jan. 1, and provide information on beneficiary complaints in those areas.

In March,Sens. John Thune, R-S.D., and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.C., introduced S. 2736, a bill to delay the cuts until at Oct. 1, 2017. It currently has 19 co-sponsors.

Industry stakeholders are working to secure a Democratic co-sponsor for a companion bill in the House of Representatives.

Influential group backs bid bill

WASHINGTON – The National Federation of Independent Business has written a letter of support for S. 2736, a bill that would delay a second round of Medicare reimbursement cuts scheduled for July 1.

The NFIB cites the high proportion of HME providers that are small businesses and the high level of service those companies provide in its letter.

“The next round of the competitive bidding cuts threaten the viability of these small businesses,” the group stated.

AAHomecare says the NFIB represents 325,000 small and independent business owners nationwide and its endorsement carries significant weight on Capitol Hill.

AAHomecare gave a shout-out to Don Jones, president of Southern Medical Equipment Corp., and director of federal affairs for the Alabama Durable Medical Equipment Dealers Association, for securing the NFIB’s support.

The Senate bill would delay the upcoming cuts until Oct. 1, 2017. Stakeholders are working on a companion bill in the House of Representatives.

Groups surveys drivers on sleep apnea

ARLINGTON, Va. – The American Transportation Research Institute has launched an online survey seeking input from commercial drivers on a number of issues related to sleep apnea. ATRI is surveying drivers on their perspectives, personal experiences and knowledge of sleep apnea. It also seeks information on the sleep apnea assessments and treatments that drivers may have received, as well as the perceived effectiveness of those treatments. The survey results will be synthesized with other sleep apnea and driver fatigue research analyses, and then analyzed by several leading sleep apnea experts. The ATRI has made “Understanding the Impacts of Sleep Apnea on Commercial Drivers” one of its top research priorities this year. The survey was initially distributed at the Mid-America Trucking Show in late March, where more than 100 drivers participated.

Alliance continues Ariz. expansion

Prescott, Ariz. – Alliance Homecare has acquired Bradshaw Home Medical, also based in Prescott, Ariz. Valley Healthcare Group, parent to Alliance Homecare, now operates 10 DME locations in Arizona and Nebraska, and 10 accredited sleep centers. “This acquisition helps us to remain focused on providing the best patient care possible, while working to offset the cuts in Medicare in the rural areas,” said Ron Evans, owner of Valley Healthcare Group, in a release. “We now service patients from the southern border of Arizona to Prescott and Prescott Valley, and we are expanding to other areas in Arizona soon, covering 75% of the state’s population from the southern border up to northern Arizona.” The two companies will remain independently owned and operated. Evans, who launched Valley Respiratory Services in 2006 with his wife, has grown his business through acquisitions like Heartland Health Therapy in 2014, RTA Homecare in 2013 and Alliance in 2012.

InfuSystem buys infusion pump assets

MADISON HEIGHTS, Mich. – A subsidiary of InfuSystem Holdings, a national provider of infusion pumps and related services in the U.S. and Canada, has reached an agreement to acquire the infusion pump assets of Philadelphia-based InfusAID. Per the deal, InfuSystem will acquire about 400 infusion pumps from InfusAID, a privately held regional provider of ambulatory infusion pumps and service to medical facilities. “Similar to our acquisition of Ciscura in 2015, the pumps we acquire from InfusAID will come to us with 18 medical facility relationships that will help us gain additional market share as the marketplace continues to consolidate,” Erik Steen, CEO of InfuSystem, stated in a press release. “We also believe this transaction will offer clinicians and patients better access to more affordable in-network care via InfuSystem’s 340-plus insurance payer contracts.”

Docs criticize Medicare’s diabetes policies

LEAWOOD, Kan. – The American Academy of Family Physicians sent a three-page letter to HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell on April 13, expressing its concerns that the prescribing process for diabetes testing supplies has become “overly burdensome.” Also in the letter: That the competitive bidding program has resulted in patients receiving unbranded or inaccurate supplies. The AAFP argues that it should be acceptable for physicians to write prescriptions for “diabetic supplies” to encompass syringes, needles, test strips, lancets, glucose testing machine, etc., along with frequency. Current policy requires everything from a documented diagnosis to a patient’s testing log. The AAFP also calls on CMS and the FDA to better communicate about the quality and safety of monitoring systems sold under the bid program.

Diabetes manufacturer snags contract

MINNEAPOLIS – Arkray USA has contracted with the 340B Prime Vendor program to provide diabetes care products, including its GlucoCard Shine and GlucoCard Expression meters, to patients in qualifying healthcare facilities. "Arkray's accurate, reliable and easy-to-use diabetes management products help patients of 340B hospitals and clinics live healthier lifestyles and lower healthcare costs," said Arkray USA President Jonathan Chapman.

Drive|DeVilbiss debuts SmartLink app

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Drive|DeVilbiss Healthcare and WillowTree, a UX design and app development company, have announced the launch of their new SmartLink App for their IntelliPAP 2 CPAP device. The app interfaces with the device wirelessly over Bluetooth, pulling data daily to keep track of patient progress. The app also allows patients to play an interactive role in their therapy: It provides feedback on their therapy; reports for daily, weekly, monthly and yearly usage; notifications for high leak and low usage; reminders for replacing supplies, such as mask and tubing; help videos for setting up and maintaining the unit. “With effortless feedback, clinically relevant notifications and alerts, and tailored, actionable insights into one’s sleep therapy, the SmartLink app will enrich the mundane relationship an individual with sleep apnea traditionally has with their equipment,” said Ed Link, chief marketing officer for Drive|DeVilbiss, in a release. 

People news: Jay Broadbent, Kay Johnson

Kay Johnson, owner of Midwest Medical Services in Watertown, S.D., has been named the 2016 MAMES Above and Beyond Award winner. The award is given to MAMES members who go “above and beyond” in the fight to protect access to quality care. Johnson, who currently serves on several MAMES committees, invited Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., to participate in a meet-and-greet with all MAMES members from South Dakota at Midwest Medical to discuss the impact of the competitive bidding pricing roll out. She alsorecently volunteered to testify in front of the US Small Business Administration on federal regulations impacting her small business...The Small Business Administration has named provider Jay Broadbent Utah Small Business Person of the Year. Broadbent founded Alpine Home Medical in 1997, with a single employee operating out of a delivery van. Today, it is the largest independent HME provider in Utah with nearly 200 employees. Broadbent, CEO, also heads up the B in Motion Foundation with his wife Kristie to provide wheelchairs and other mobility equipment to users who can’t afford it. Broadbent and the winners from the other 49 states and U.S. territories will be honored in Washington, D.C, in May.

Short takes: Medtrade, URise Products, Valumatrix

Medtradeshow organizers are accepting submissions for conference session ideas until May 9. Ideas should address one of these tracks: audits, business operations, competitive bidding, continuing education and training, executive leadership, keeping it legal, retail/caretail, sales and marketing, sleep/oxygen or strategic planning. This year’s event takes place Oct. 31-Nov. 3 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta…The Doctors TV show on April 25 will air its inaugural “Funder Games,” featuring five healthcare startups with audience members voting on the new best product. The winner: URise Products and its just launched StandUp Walker. The walker is a stand-assist device combined with a modern take on a mobility walker…Valumatrix has signed an agreement to offer publishing services, including its “The Fifth Element Employee Newsletter,” through the Innovatix and Essensa Group Purchasing Portfolio. Innovatix is the nation’s leading non-acute care supply chain solutions company and GPO, serving 32,000 member pharmacies, senior living facilities and independent medical oncologists.

Stock movers: Ray Huggenberger, Mick Farrell

Inogen CEO Ray Huggenberger sold more than half of his shares in the company in a transaction April 15. He sold 29,635 shares at an average price of $48.59 for a total value of $1.44 million. He now owns 25,210 shares…ResMed CEO Mick Farrell sold 5,975 shares at an average price of $59.34 in a transaction on April 15 valued at $354,556. He now owns 154,723 shares.