In brief: Consumers support accessories bill, VirtuOx makes buy

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Friday, September 29, 2017

WASHINGTON – The ITEM Coalition and 32 national consumer and clinical organizations have sent a letter to leaders in the House of Representatives, asking them to pass a bill that would halt competitive bidding-related prices for accessories for complex rehab manual wheelchairs.

“We are writing to express our strong support for this new legislation and to emphasize the importance of protecting patient access not just to accessories used with complex rehab power wheelchairs, but also to those used on complex rehab manual wheelchairs,” states the letter, which was sent to the leaders of the House Ways & Means and Energy & Commerce committees on Sept. 21.

Earlier this year, CMS stopped plans to apply bid-related pricing for complex rehab power wheelchairs. Reduced pricing for complex manual power wheelchairs, however, has been in place since Jan. 1, 2016.

Among the groups that signed on to the letter: United Spinal Association, Amputee Coalition, Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, Paralyzed Veterans of America and United Cerebral Palsy.

“This is a great sign of consumer/clinician support for the CRT manual wheelchair accessories fix,” said Don Clayback, executive director of NCART. “We encourage people to share (the letter) with their members in the quest to secure co-sponsors for the House bill.”

At press time, H.R. 3730, introduced by Reps. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., and John Larson, D-Conn., had 42 co-sponsors.

Senators introduce sleep testing bill

WASHINGTON – A bill that seeks to require the Secretary of Transportation to implement a rule to test and treat commercial transportations workers for sleep apnea was introduced Sept. 28.

The bill, S. 1883, is sponsored by Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and co-sponsored by Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Robert Menendez, D-N.J.

In August, the same group of senators sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation asking why the Federal Railroad Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrationscrapped a proposal to require sleep apnea testing of transportation workers. The FMCSA has been working on guidelines for testing and treating commercial drivers for sleep apnea for nearly a decade and it held public comment sessions on whether to require testing in 2016.

“In the face of compelling facts that show sleep apnea is a direct cause of several tragic train accidents, the Trump administration has backed off a new mandatory testing rule,” said Schumer in a release.“This is dangerous and ill-advised. A federal law would force all rail lines to conduct these tests in perpetuity and with clear federal guidelines. Across-the-board sleep apnea testing must be law of the land for train operators and commercial drivers to help ensure us that the tragedies that happened in Brooklyn and in Hoboken will be prevented in the future.” 

VirtuOx makes buy, plans more

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. – VirtuOx, a healthcare IT company providing diagnostic tools and services focused on sleep and respiratorydisease states, has acquired ProFox Associates and NPF, it announced Sept. 28. ProFox and NPF both offer oximetry software and technology. “This is the first of many acquisitions for us,” said Steven Lica, CEO of VirtuOx. “Our ability to create interoperability among multiple platforms will continue to drive us toward increased innovation with a goal of cost effectiveness and accuracy for healthcare providers and patients alike.” Vertess advised VirtuOx on the transactions.

Investment allows StateServ to improve software, expand network

TEMPE, Ariz. – StateServ Holdings, a DME provider to hospices and other post-acute care service providers, has received an equity investment from an affiliate of Blue Wolf Capital Partners. The investment will allow StateServ to improve and expand its proprietary software solution, DMETrack, which provides workflow automation, real-time reporting and analytics to optimize the operational, clinical and financial performance of its customers. The company also plans to use the investment to add DME providers to its network. Currently, StateServ has 1,300 DME provider locations, along with 21 company-owned warehouse facilities. It offers a full spectrum of DME benefit management solutions to more than 550 hospice providers that serve more than 80,000 patients per day in 46 states. Paul DiCosmo, CEO of StateServ, and other members of the management team will continue to lead the company and have maintained a significant equity stake. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

NSM expands to Nebraska

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – National Seating & Mobility has opened a new branch in Lincoln, Neb., its first in the state. The location will provide complex rehab services across southeast Nebraska. “NSM is proud to extend our CRT expertise and offerings to clients in Nebraska, said Bill Mixon, NSM CEO. “We’re committed to growing our national network of experienced assistive technology providers to reach more individuals in need of mobility solutions.”

VGM tops best workplaces

WATERLOO, Iowa – VGM Group has been named Iowa’s Top Workplace for large employers, the member association announced Sept. 25. “This is a great honor for our company to be ranked as the Top Workplace in Iowa,” said CEO Mike Mallaro. “VGM is a family and being an extraordinary place to work is one of our important aspirations. Our unique culture helps our people serve customers with tremendous dedication and commitment.”  Approximately 300 businesses participated in the program, of which 150 were ranked on the top workplaces list. Top workplace lists are based on the results of anonymous employee survey responses. VGM, which has 900 employees, has placed in the top 10 each of the last four times they have participated in the survey. In 2015, it also placed first.

Cures update: Medicaid, CGS, Noridian

AAHomecare has learned from CMS that a provision contained in the 21st Century Cures Act will apply to all HCPCS codes covered by Medicare and Medicaid, not just the codes included in the competitive bidding program. This will allow individual states to set allowables as they choose, the association says. The provision in the Cures Act retroactively delayed a second round of reimbursement cuts in non-bid areas from July 1, 2016, to Jan. 1, 2017…CGS and Noridian are reporting Cures Act adjustments will be finalized in the coming weeks, according to a bulletin from VGM. The provision in the Cures Act allowed providers to recoup a portion of six months of payments.

CareCentrix boosts data crunching power

HARTFORD, Conn. – CareCentrix, which manages post-acute care for payers, has formed a strategic development alliance with Owned Outcomes, a developer of precision analytics. The companies say the alliance will help health plans lower costs by combining clinical expertise with next-generation analytics. “The alliance will deliver actionable insights to optimize post-acute care networks and enable personalized data-driven decisions at the point of hospital discharge,” a press release states. “Using machine learning and artificial intelligence, the organizations will leverage data to change post-acute care from being reactive to predictive, resulting in better care at a lower cost.” CareCentrix connects patients with home care through a national network of more than 8,000 credentialed provider locations. Owned Outcomes provides analytics to healthcare providers as they enter into payment agreements that include financial and performance accountability for patient care.

Caire signs on new service center
BALL GROUND, Ga. – Caire, the manufacturer of the AirSep, Caire and SeQual brands of wearable, portable and stationary oxygen concentrators, has appointed Altra Service Professionals as the authorized service center for its customers in New Jersey and New England. Altra Service Professionals will perform both warranty and non-warranty service for Caire products from its facility in Berlin, Conn. “Altra has been performing non-warranty repairs of our products for many years and were a natural fit bring on board in support of our warranty repairs,” said Miguel Cervantes, service manager. Providers have the most to gain from the relationship, the companies say. “In an industry where reimbursement continually shrinks, dealers are always looking for ways to cut costs without sacrificing quality of care,” said Robert DeChello, president and co-owner of Altra. “This relationship with CAIRE enables us to do this by providing exceptional training and processes so that we can provide efficient and affordable repair solutions.”

Hurricane relief: Preferred Homecare, Apria Healthcare step up

Phoenix-based Preferred Homecare has donated medical equipment, including wheelchairs and ambulatory aids, to the Rehabilitation Services Volunteer Project in Houston. The equipment will be used in shelters to aid victims of Hurricane Harvey, which flooded the city in August. Employees at Preferred Homecare also raised money for the American Red Cross Hurricane Harvey relief fund, with the company donating a matching amount. “Our thoughts are with everyone who has been affected by Hurricane Harvey and we are proud to make this donation in support of the relief efforts there,” said Robert Fahlman, CEO of Preferred Homecare. Preferred Homecare offers a full range of infusion, nutrition, respiratory and HME therapies and services across the West and Southwest…Lake Forest, Calif.-based Apria Healthcare says it has activated its Emergency Preparedness Plan to prepare local branches in Texas and Florida to serve hundreds of critical respiratory patients impacted in the wake of hurricanes. The company has been dispensing oxygen to patients, evacuees in shelters and others in need. Nationally, Apria has also initiated a company-wide effort to provide emergency assistance for employees who live and work in affected areas. The company says all donations raised through two GoFundMe campaigns, one for each state, will be directly distributed to affected employees. Apria has already contributed $25,000 to each campaign and has pledged to match employee donations up to $50,000 for both campaigns. So far, employees have donated almost $31,000.

Medtrade: HME Retail Product Awards, Mike Sperduti

Medtrade is looking for product submissions for its HME Retail Product Awards. Submitted products must be manufactured by companies that are exhibiting at the show. A panel of judges will select eight products that will be presented during a session on Oct. 23 at 3:30. Audience members will vote for three winners…Medtrade is offering a free workshop led by sales and marketing expert Mike Sperduti of Emerge Sales and sponsored by PlayMaker. During the six-hour workshop, Sperduti will address cold calling, closing sales and other topics. The workshop is part of the In-Depth Education Series that takes place Oct. 23 at 9 a.m.

Short takes: Computers Unlimited, Dr. Rory Cooper

Computers Unlimited launched three new mobile products at its annual users conference in September. TIMS Assistant provides real-time access to customer and prospect information, inventory pricing and availability, plus the ability to create orders and accept payments. TIMS Electronic Delivery combines routing logistics, asset pricing and tracking, and mobile payments in one application. TIMS Warehouse comprises a suite of apps designed for tracking warehouse inventory and streamlining order fulfillment. “These new mobile apps will help our customers reduce operational costs, while increasing the quality of work performance,” said David Schaer, president…Dr. Rory Cooper has been named as the recipient of the “Science and Environment Medal” as part of the this year’s Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals or “Sammies.” Cooper is one of seven award winners who were chosen from 26 finalists and more than 440 nominees by a selection committee that includes leaders from the government, business, the foundation and nonprofit community, academia, entertainment and the media. Cooper, who directs the Human Engineering Research Laboratories and serves as associate dean for inclusion in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh, was honored for designing innovative wheelchairs and other assistive technologies…Medical Service Company was recognized as a Top Workplace in Northeast Ohio. The Cleveland-based provider was honored for its employee-centric culture. It’s the sixth time the company has been recognized.