In brief: CMS gives update on prior auths, VGM expands

Friday, January 8, 2016

WASHINGTON – HME providers can breath a little easier when it comes to CMS’s proposed time frame for responding to prior authorization requests, says AAHomecare. Originally, the agency said responses to prior authorization request would be issued within 10 business days, or two days for expedited requests. AAHomecare argued that the responses need to be completed within 24 hours, or two hours for expedited requests, to meet patient needs.Fortunately, CMS has now said it will not finalize its original time frame for responding to prior authorization requests, according to the association.

VGM acquires women’s group

WATERLOO, Iowa – The VGM Group has acquired Essentially Women, it announced Dec. 31. The 20-year-old member service organization, which has more than 500 members with 1,000 locations, will operate as a standalone company and will retain its name, brand and values, according to a press release. The deal will give Essentially Women members access to additional VGM products and services. VGM’s Christa Miehe will serve as the new president of Essentially Women. “Both companies were founded on the principle of providing business solutions to independent providers so that they can focus on what’s most important, taking care of their patients,” said Miehe. Cindy Ciardo, manager of vendor relations, and Melinda Smith, manager of membership services, will continue in their current roles.

PE firm picks up HME company

NEW YORK – Tailwind Capital, a middle-market private equity firm, has acquired Therapy Support through a merger with its portfolio company, National HME of Richland Hills, Texas. “This key acquisition aligns with our vision for the continued growth of National HME and further expands our DME benefit management geographic footprint,” stated Geoffrey Raker, a partner at Tailwind, in a press release. Therapy Support is a multi-state, full-service provider of DME for the hospice and long-term care industries. It has 21 locations in eight states. Tailwind also has investments in Freedom Innovations, a designer and maker of advanced lower-limb prosthetic devices; and Long’s Drugs, a specialty pharmacy.

New wheelchair technology attracts investment

FITCHBURG, Wis. – Rowheels, the developer of a reverse propulsion technology for manual wheelchairs, has secured a $1.5 million investment led by WISC Partners, a Madison, Wis.-based strategic operating capital fund. Rowheels will use the money to commercialize its technology, which is designed to counteract many of the debilitating effects of traditional wheelchair propulsion, according to a press release. “With this investment and working relationship with WISC Partners, we are prepared to effectively go to market with our new product family,” stated Rimas Buinevicius, CEO. The technology uses pull-based geared wheels that mimic the activity of rowing, helping to engage the larger set of upper torso muscles that are underutilized in traditional push-only wheeling. Rowheels was co-founded in 2011 by Buinevicius and Salim Nasser, who will serve as the company’s CTO.

Joystick armrest poses medical risk, says study

ELKINS PARK, Pa. –A new study has found that central driving has several benefits over traditional armrest mounted joysticks. “(Armrest mounted joystick controllers) force a change in body posture and weight distribution with deleterious effects over time,” said Alberto Esquenazi, director of the Gait & Motion Analysis Laboratory at MossRehab, which conducted the study. “When operating a PWC with an armrest mounted drive control, the user often leans on the armrest where the joystick is mounted in order to improve drive control.” The result: muscular skeletal conditions and pressure ulcers, according to the study. On the other hand, subjects who used central driving controls sat more erect and reported more comfort.

NC battles insurance cuts

RALEIGH, N.C. – The North Carolina Association of Medical Equipment Services has retained legal representation to fight Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina’s plan to reduce reimbursement rates for HME to 25% below the 2016 Medicare rural fee schedule, or, where necessary, 25% below the non-rural state fee schedule, according to a bulletin from the association. In December, after the insurer announced the change, NCAMES asked BCBS to freeze pricing at the 2015 fee schedule. NCAMES also discussed this situation with the Department of Insurance on Dec. 31, 2015, and sent a letter to BCBS officials, once again, requesting a freeze.

Pride launches Lift Finder

EXETER, Pa. – Pride Mobility Products has launched a new online vehicle lift tool. The Lift Finder is designed to help consumers and providers match the proper lift with a vehicle and mobility product. Using drop-down menus, users can select a combination of vehicle and mobility products to access a list of compatible lifts, and browse for further information and product specifications, according to a press release. The Lift Finder is continuously updated with information.

Medtrade Spring seeks retail products

LAS VEGAS – Medtrade Spring show organizers seek manufacturers to submit their retail products for the biannual Innovative HME Retail Product Awards. The top eight products will be presented in a session at the event led by Jim Greatorex of VGM Retail Services. Any manufacturer exhibiting at Medtrade Spring can submit an entry form by Jan. 29 to put themselves in the running for the award. The winners of the awards at Medtrade in the fall included Pride Mobility’s Go Go Folding Scooter. Medtrade Spring takes place Feb. 29-March 2 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas.

ResMed’s Farrell sells $1M in shares

SAN DIEGO – Peter Farrell, founder and chairman of ResMed, sold 20,000 shares of company stock valued at $1.04 million in a transaction on Jan. 4. Farrell still owns 347,978 shares in the company, valued at $18.2 million. On that same day, David Pendarvis, chief administrative officer and global general counsel, sold 6,000 shares valued at $312,960. He still owns 74,287 shares.

Short takes: AAH, VGM, Progressive Care

AAHomecare has named Mike Nicol senior director of membership services. Previously, Nicol has worked in varying capacities at some of the major nursing and pharmacy associations. Most recently, he was managing industry partnerships for the National Transitions of Care Coalition. At AAH, Nicol will focus on new member recruitment and current member engagement…The VGM Group seeks speakers for its Heartland Conference, scheduled for June 13-16 in Waterloo, Iowa. Those interested should contact Lori Schilling at by Jan. 16. Registration is already open for the event, which is celebrating its 15th year…Miami-based Progressive Care, through its subsidiary Pharmco, has named Shital Mars CEO. Mars, who currently serves as COO, will succeed Alan Jay Weisberg. Weisberg will remain chief financial officer, as well as chairman of the board of directors. Pharmco is a South Florida health services organization and provider of prescription pharmaceuticals; it specializes in, among other things, the sale and rental of DME.