In brief: Crunch time for non-invasive vents, with sign-on letter approaching deadline and patient organizations weighing in

Friday, May 31, 2019

WASHINGTON – The deadline for a sign-on letter in the House of Representatives that asks CMS to drop non-invasive vents from Round 2021 of competitive bidding could be as early as June 5, AAHomecare reports.

“It’s critical that we make a concerted effort over the next few days to ask House members to join the letter,” the association stated in a bulletin.

AAHomecare asks that stakeholders contact their representatives by phone or email to ask them to sign on to the letter, spearheaded by Reps. Morgan Griffith, R-Va., and Peter Welch, D-Vt.

A coalition of patient organizations has already sent a letter to CMS imploring the agency to permanently exclude non-invasive vents from the bid program.

CMS announced in March that non-invasive vents were one of the 16 product categories to be included in Round 2021. The bid window for the program opens July 16.

Heavy hitters weigh in on non-invasive vents

WASHINGTON – A coalition of patient organizations “implores” HHS and CMS to permanently exclude non-invasive ventilators from the competitive bidding program.

“Patients who require NIV should not have to rely upon the lowest bidder to receive the life-sustaining complex services ad equipment necessary to remain in their homes and communities,” states the letter. “We implore you to permanently exclude ventilators from competitive bidding to protect the fragile and vulnerable Medicare and Medicaid populations who rely on these life-sustaining devices.”

The letter is signed by nearly two dozen groups, including the ALS Association, the American Association for Respiratory Care, the American Lung Association, CHEST/American College of Physicians and the United Spinal Association.

The letter is in addition to a Congressional sign-on letters circulating in the House of Representatives.

CMS announced in March that non-invasive vents were one of the 16 product categories to be included in Round 2021. The bid window for the program opens July 16.

Lawmakers raise concerns on bid program

WASHINGTON – West Virginia’s congressional delegation recently sent a letter to CMS Administrator Seema Verma asking her to be mindful of the challenges rural providers face in Round 2021.

“West Virginia is a rural state and our seniors rely on the compassionate care that our small businesses provide, including home delivery, set-up assistance, and prompt service when problems arise such as floods, snowstorms and high winds,” reads the letter. “Without this type of service available, West Virginians who rely on DMEPOS products to survive will be put at risk. We implore you to take into account the unique challenges that small providers in our rural state face as CMS moves forward with Round 2021.”

Regina Gillispie, president and owner of Best Home Medical in Barboursville, took the lead in getting lawmakers to weigh in. 

The delegation also raised concerns about CMS’s plans to include non-invasive vents in the competitive bidding program.

“NIV products, such as BiPAP and Trilogy machines are used to treat patients with severe COPD,” reads the letter. “By adding them to Round 2021, companies will not have to work with DME providers with specialized knowledge of these products, further reducing access to these important, lifesaving products.”

The bi-partisan letter was signed by Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito, and Reps. David McKinley, Alex Mooney and Carol Miller.

Aeroflow seals deal with two more payers

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Aeroflow Healthcare has partnered with PacificSource of Oregon and BCBS CareFirst to provide DME, including breast pumps, pediatric nebulizers, CPA and incontinence supplies, to their members. Aeroflow will serve PacificSource patients in Oregon, Idaho and Montana; and CareFirst patients in Washington, D.C., Virginia, and Maryland. "Partnering with organizations that share our commitment to improving patients' lives and establishing excellent customer support furthers Aeroflow's mission and helps us to serve more patients in the American northwest and mid-Atlantic," said Shana Fox, senior strategic partnerships associate for Aeroflow.

Sen. Wyden visits independent pharmacy

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Grants Pass Pharmacy in Grants Pass, Ore., hosted Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., ranking member of the Finance Committee, on May 28. Wyden said independent community pharmacies are “key to quality of life in smaller Oregon towns and great allies in the battle to reduce prescription drug prices.” The pharmacy is owned by Michele Belcher, a member of the National Community Pharmacists Association. Wyden and Belcher also discussed efforts to reduce drug prices, including Wyden’s bill, the Creating Transparency to have Drug Rebates Unlocked (C-THRU) Act. Also in attendance: Karry La Violette, senior vice president of government affairs at NCPA. “We’re grateful to have Sen. Wyden’s support of community pharmacy and its patients,” she said. “We agree that more transparency and a simpler system are needed and are eager to continue partnering with him on this important work.”

AAH has new slate of officers, board members

WASHINGTON – AAHomecare has approved its officers for 2019-2020. They are: chairman, Steve Ackerman, vice president and CEO, Spectrum Medical; vice chairman, Bill Guidetti, executive vice president, Apria Healthcare; and treasurer, Joel Mills, president and CEO, Advanced Home Care. Board members for the 2019-2022 term were also approved. They are: Rob Boeye, executive vice president/general manager for HME, Brightree LLC; George Kucka, president, Fairmeadows Home Health; Michelle Templin, vice president of legislative affairs, Managed Health Care Associates; Todd Walling, vice president of sales, Permobil, Inc.; Jeff Bowman, vice president, McKesson Medical-Surgical; and Scott Maughan, president, Alpine Home Medical.

Minn. providers could see some relief

MINNEAPOLIS – The state legislature on May 24 released the language of a Department of Human Services omnibus bill that includes a repeal of the preferred incontinence product program, MAMES has reported. In August 2018, the state tabled its plans to create the program after stakeholders obtained a temporary restraining order delaying its implementation. MAMES is still analyzing the bill, which includes a couple of other DME-related updates, and is waiting to hear back from DHS on possible “clawbacks” related to the 21st Century Cures Act.

NSM speeds up repair process

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – National Seating & Mobility has launched Remote Evaluation, a program to expedite the service and repair process and reduce downtime for clients. Using verbal and/or video diagnostics, connected chair integration and a 20-point inspection checklist, a technician may solve repair issues immediately, or use gathered information to facilitate a successful repair at the first in-person appointment. “Our Remote Evaluation program is a much-needed replacement of the traditional, less-efficient CRT repair process,” said Bill Mixon, NSM CEO. “Combining manufacturer technology with video and verbal diagnostics gives us a significant capability to prioritize client needs and accelerate equipment repairs.”

F&P hits revenue milestone

IRVINE, Calif. – Fisher & Paykel Healthcare reported NZ$421.5 million in operating revenue for its homecare product group for the 2019 financial year, representing 6% growth or 4% growth in constant currency. The company says a hiatus in sleep mask launches was offset by a strong contribution from its new SleepStyle Auto CPAP machine, which has been rolled out to all major markets. Overall, F&P reported NZ$1.07 billion in operating revenue for the year, representing 9% growth. “Achieving $1 billion in revenue is a milestone for our company; however, we are not sitting still,” said Lewis Grandon, managing director and CEO. “We will continue to build on our strengths and continuously improve and expand our portfolio of valued solutions for healthcare providers and patients.” Net profit after tax was up 10% to NZ$209.2 million for 2019. F&P expects full year operating revenue for the 2020 financial year to be about NZ$1.15 billion, and net profit after tax to be about NZ$240 million to NZ$250 million.

New law caps insulin co-pays at $100

DENVER – Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has signed a new law that caps co-payments for prescription insulin to $100 a month for insured patients, regardless of the amount or type of drug needed. The law also directs the state’s attorney general to investigate pricing of insulin drugs and determine whether or not additional consumer protections are needed. Colorado is the first state to enact such a law, according to news reports. Almost 20,000 Coloradans are diagnosed with diabetes each year and as of Jan. 1, 2018, nearly 300,000 have been diagnosed and another 110,000 are undiagnosed but living with the disease, the law says. The annual medical cost related to diabetes in Colorado is almost $4 billion, with 18% of that amount, or about $700 million, spent on prescription drugs to treat the disease, it says. Insulin prices rose by 45% between 2014-17, and 555%, adjusted for inflation, over the last 14 years, it says. Nearly one in four Type 1 diabetics report underusing insulin due to the high cost of the drug, it says.

COPD researcher receives grant

NEW YORK – Spyridon Fortis, MD, of the Carver College of Medicine at the University of Iowa has received the ATS Foundation/Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Research Award in Respiratory Support with Nasal High Flow Patients with CODP. The $100,000 award will help fund Dr. Fortis’ study, “The Effect of Heated, Humidified High-Flow Air in COPD Patients with Chronic Bronchitis.” “(Dr. Fortis’) proposal targets a very promising application of nasal high flow that has not yet received much attention,” said Nicholas Hill, chief of the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at Tufts Medical Center. “Results from his study are likely to greatly expand our knowledge in this area and lead to improved patient outcomes.”

AirAvant Medical shares research findings

DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. – AirAvant Medical will share research findings on the efficacy and safety of its Bongo Rx at the SLEEP 2019 conference, June 8-12 in San Antonio. “Long-term CPAP compliance continues to range from 30% to 70%, but we believe the Bongo Rx can help level the playing field for those with mild to moderate sleep apnea,” said Ron Richard, co-founder and director. “Not only can this product work for non-compliant patients, it can be a great supplemental option for compliant patients that travel.” The Bongo Rx is an expiratory positive airway pressure (EPAP) device for patients with mild to moderate sleep apnea that’s available by prescription. The newly formed AirAvant Medical comprises the former partners of InnoMed Technology, and Ron Richard, formerly of ResMed and SeQual Technologies. InnoMed’s past achievements include the Nasal-Aire, Hybrid and Aloha line of CPAP interfaces.

ResMed adds exec in South Asia to increase awareness

SAN DIEGO – ResMed has appointed Shubhi Khurana as general manager for India and South Asia to create market development and awareness initiatives to educate the public, medical community and decision-makers about the prevalence of sleep and respiratory diseases in the region, as well as how to diagnose and treat them at home with cloud-connectable non-invasive devices. “Sleep apnea and COPD are global health epidemics and are especially prevalent in Asia,” said Justin Leong, president of ResMed Asia Growth Markets. “In India, these diseases are highly underdiagnosed due to low awareness amongst both doctors and the general community. Given the link between these diseases and other chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, stroke, cognitive disorders and cancer, it is critical we continue to educate and treat people with these conditions.” More broadly, Khurana will oversee business operations, including setting strategic priorities, and evolving the team and go-to-market models for the company’s long-term growth. She has more than two decades in the pharmaceutical, healthcare and medtech industries.

Revised wheelchair seating standard published

WASHINGTON – The American National Standard Institute (ANSI) has approved the revision and publication of the ANSI/RESNA WC-3 standard after five years of collaboration across wheelchair seating experts. The newly expanded volume includes improvements and clarifications, as well as new test methods for characterizing seating support surfaces. “Unlike most standards and regulations, these standards are created by the people who need them and use them, including clinicians, engineers, academics, manufacturers, regulators, and end users—‘standards by us and for us.’ This stakeholder-based approach ensures relevance and clarity, so that the standards can provide a common language and approach to seating, and be beneficial in differentiating between the scores of seating options available.” The standards are organized into five categories, including “determination of the changes in properties following simulated use of seat cushions.”

RESNA accredits first group of universities

WASHINGTON – Three universities have now earned accreditation with RESNA for their assistive technology and rehab engineering programs: University of Illinois-Chicago, University of Pittsburgh and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. RESNA launched its accreditation program, in conjunction with the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Education Programs, last year. Graduates of these accredited programs are ready for employment and prepared for assuming the role of assistive technology professional (ATP), after they pass the RESNA certification exam, RESNA says.