In brief: ICD-10 delay is final, patent case nears trial

Friday, April 4, 2014

WASHINGTON – President Obama has signed a “doc fix” bill that delays ICD-10 implementation for at least one year, until Oct. 1, 2015. The Senate passed the bill last week, and the House of Representatives passed the bill on March 27. The “doc fix” bill prevents a 24% cut in physician pay for another year, until April 1, 2015. It’s the 16th time that Congress has passed such a patch on physician pay, rather than come up with a permanent fix, according to reports. Reaction to the ICD-10 delay was mixed. While it gives breathing room to some organizations, it frustrates others that have committed resources to transitioning to the new set of codes by the original deadline, Oct. 1, 2014, according to reports. Like the House bill, the Senate bill did not address competitive bidding. “Although we’re disappointed that Congress didn’t include fixes for Medicare’s poorly managed bidding program, we’ll continue to get cosponsors for H.R. 1717 and look for another piece of legislation that can carry its provisions,” said Tom Ryan, president and CEO of AAHomecare, in a statement. H.R. 1717, which would replace the competitive bidding program with a market-pricing program (MPP), currently has 171 co-sponsors.

Patent case nears trial

SAN DIEGO – Just ahead of a trial, ResMed has dropped one of its patent infringement claims against BMC Medical/3B Medical, according to BMC/3B Medical. ResMed voluntarily withdrew the patent from investigation after an International Trade Commission (ITC) administrative law judge issued a ruling that restricted the scope of its claims, according to a release. ResMed in May 2013 filed a lawsuit against BMC and announced several months later that the ITC had agreed to investigate theChinese medical device manufacturer and its U.S.-based distributors, 3B Medical and 3B Products, for patent infringement.A trial is scheduled for April 10. ResMed filed a similar lawsuit against Taiwanese manufacturer Apex Medical in 2013. The U.S. patent and trademark office in February agreed to re-examine five ResMed patents in response to challenges filed by Apex.

Letter sends ‘strong message’ about bid program

WASHINGTON – A letter urging CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner not to expand competitive bidding until the Office of Inspector General (OIG) has completed its investigation into the program has been signed by 83 members of Congress, according to The VGM Group. Reps. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., and Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, who spearheaded the effort, stated in the letter: “Concerns have stemmed from the lack of transparency, the improper vetting of the financial wherewithal of many firms that have been awarded contracts, and design flaws that were identified by over 240 economists and auction experts.” VGM says the letter, which was sent to Tavenner on March 28, sends a “strong message.”

Bid program would save Medi-Cal millions, OIG says

WASHINGTON – Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid program, could have saved $3.9 million on standard power wheelchairs, oxygen systems and oxygen concentrators in 2011 by using a competitive bidding program, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) has found. In its report, the OIG recommended Medi-Cal establish a bidding program like Medicare’s, or revise its reimbursement methodology so pricing is more in line with bid prices. Though it disagreed with the OIG’s estimated savings, Medi-Cal agrees it should change its reimbursement methodology in 2014, according to the report. “The state agency indicated that it would be more cost-effective to align DME rates to 80% of Medicare’s rates annually and that it will update its DME Medi-Cal rates in 2014,” the report stated.  Medi-Cal also said it would review a competitive bidding program to determine the costs and benefits associated with implementing such a program in the future, according to the report. The OIG reviewed $12 million in Medi-Cal payments for standard power wheelchairs, oxygen systems and oxygen concentrators. Auditors compared payments made by Medi-Cal to those made in certain cities in California as part of Round 1 of competitive bidding.

FAA drafts sleep apnea guidelines

FREDERICK, Md. – The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has drafted new guidelines for diagnosing sleep apnea among pilots, according to news reports. Under the new guidelines, announced April 1, pilots will not be disqualified from flying based on body mass index alone. The change came about after opposition from pilots, lawmakers and physicians forced the FAA to put on hold its plans to start testing pilots for sleep apnea in January. The House of Representatives passed a bill in February that would require the FAA to go through a rulemaking process before implementing a sleep policy. The agency had said that was unnecessary because untreated sleep apnea already disqualifies a pilot from flying. Under the draft guidelines, aviation medical examiners (AMEs) will continue to ask questions related to sleep apnea, as they have done since 2009. If a pilot is referred for evaluation for sleep apnea, the examiner will issue a regular medical certificate and the pilot will have 90 days to get an assessment. The pilot can keep flying during that 90-day period and the assessment can be conducted by any physician, not just a sleep specialist, and a sleep test is not required if the doctor feels it is unnecessary.

Separate benefit bill lands more co-sponsors

WASHINGTON – A bill in the House of Representatives to create a separate benefit for complex rehab now has 107 sponsors—67 Democrats and 40 Republicans. Co-sponsors include 17 members of the House Ways and Means Committee and 10 members of the Energy and Commerce Committee, NCART reported in a recent bulletin. “We need to continue to build support and awareness so our bill is in a position to be attached to the next piece of Medicare legislation,” wrote Don Clayback, NCART executive director. A similar bill in the Senate now has 12 co-sponsors, including members of the Finance Committee and the Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., tried unsuccessfully to have the bill attached to the “doc fix” bill recently passed by Congress.

Region C RAC announces new reviews

WILTON, Conn. – Suction catheters for tracheostomy and speech generating devices and accessories will be subject to prepayment reviews by Connolly, the Region C RAC. For suction catheters, the company will conduct an automated review to evaluate overpayments identified when claims billed for suction catheters were not done in accordance with the billing requirements outlined in local coverage determinations (LCDs). The review of speech generating devices and accessories is a complex review evaluating medical documentation to determine whether items met coverage indications and limitations and/or medical necessity as outlined in the LCD.

Toyota, VMI launch second Star Spangled Salute contest

PHOENIX – Vantage Mobility International (VMI) and Toyota on April 2 announced the launch of the Second Annual Operation Independence Star Spangled Salute contest. Through the online contest, disabled military veterans can win a new Toyota Sienna outfitted with VMI’s Access 360 In-floor Ramp Conversion system. The contest is open through Nov. 9. The name of the randomly selected winner will be announced on Veterans Day.

Incontinence provider has it in the bag

YARMOUTH, Maine – Home Delivered is now offering Tranquility brand incontinence products by the bag. Buying by the bag allows users to determine what product will work best for them without having to buy a whole case, according to a press release. Although it’s more costly to order by the bag, the company believes the convenience outweighs the cost. The mail-order provider offers a full range of adult incontinence products.

Technology to drive growth in HME market

DALLAS – U.S. demand for home medical equipment is forecast to grow 8.2% annually to $12.6 billion in 2018, according to a report by RnRMarketResearch. Underlying growth: advances in technology for portable oxygen concentrators, remote telemedicine systems and home dialysis machines. “Cost saving advantages will promote the increasing substitution of home health care for hospital, ambulatory and nursing home procedures whenever feasible,” the report states. Among HME, remote monitoring and real-time systems based on telemedicine technology will generate the fastest revenue growth, as physicians, hospitals and other medical providers are pressured by health insurers to become accountable for improving patient outcomes and controlling costs, according to the report.

Numotion strengthens presence in Milwaukee

ROCKY HILL, Conn., and ST. LOUIS – Numotion has acquired the mobility division of AccessAbility Home Medical and Rehab, a Milwaukee-based provider of mobility, respiratory and DME. “The sale of our mobility business will allow us to focus on the DME and respiratory product line, in addition to our affiliated company, Access Elevator,” stated Owner Jon Tevz in a press release. As part of the deal, Numotion will pick up the company’s three assistive technology professionals (ATPs) and other experienced support staff. “(This) will allow Numotion to strengthen its relationships with key referral sources throughout the Milwaukee area,” stated Tim Havel, regional vice president, in the release. Numotion has been acquiring a steady stream of mobility companies since it was formed by the merger of ATG Rehab and United Seating and Mobility in January 2013.

Short takes: Brightree, Inogen, Roscoe Medical

Atlanta-basedBrightree has launched Brightree Home Infusion, a new solution to address the clinical, operational and billing needs of home infusion pharmacies. The solution allows pharmacies to use a single, cloud-based platform for orders, inventory, labels, billing, drug utilization and medical tracking. Additionally, pharmacies that also provide HME medications and HME equipment and supplies can now simplify operations and reduce costs by using one sales order in a single, fully integrated system…Goleta, Calif.-based Inogen has been added to the Russell 2000 and Russell 3000 Indexes. The Russell 2000 Index measures the performance of the small-cap segment of the U.S. equity market. It’s a subset of the Russell 3000 and represents about 10% of the total market capitalization of that index…NXT Capital has provided a $78.1 million senior secured facility to fund Roscoe Medical’s acquisition of Carex Health Brands. NXT Capital was the joint lead arranger, sole bookrunner and administrative agent for the transaction.

People in the news: Jan Erickson, Sen. Isakson, Colleen Brabec, Svein Ryan

Jan Erickson, president of Colorado Springs, Colo.-based Janska, has been named Colorado Small Business Person of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration. Janska, founded in 2003, is a maker of women’s clothing that enhances dignity. It can be found in more than 900 specialty gift and clothing boutiques, and 10 catalogs in the U.S. and Canada…Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., gave the keynote address at the National Home Infusion Association’s 2014 Annual Conference and Exposition, March 31-April 3. Isakson told attendees he had a profound appreciation for their work because it allowed his son to recover at home rather than in a hospital in 1989. “As one constituent who had your services save a son’s life, I know how important what you do is,” he said…Colleen Brabec, owner and general manager of Council Bluffs, Iowa-based Mobilis, is the winner of the 2014 MAMES Above and Beyond Award. Winners of the award are recognized for their work going “above and beyond” on a state, regional and/or national level. MAMES commended Brabec for, among other things, hosting a roundtable meeting to educate lawmakers on the negative impact of competitive bidding…Svein Ryan has been appointed to the position of vice president, marketing and development, for SCA’s Personal Care business in North America. Ryan has worked for SCA for 25 years in its personal care business, managing sales teams in Norway, Sweden, Romania, Greece, Austria and Germany.