In brief: Judge keeps HHS in hot seat, Senate eyes Price hearings

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Friday, January 6, 2017

WASHINGTON – The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia stands firm that the Department of Health and Human Services must implement procedures to curtail a massive appeals backlog in a timely fashion.

Judge James Broasberg on Jan. 4 refused to rescind his previous order on Dec. 5 requiring the agency to eliminate the 650,000-claim backlog before 2021. HHS had argued that it would only be able to meet such a deadline by paying for claims without regard to merit.

The court was not unsympathetic to HHS’s plight, Broasberg wrote in his decision, but “(it) must follow the instructions of the D.C. Circuit and…conclude that equitable grounds existed for (relief) and that the reductions timetable was the most appropriate form of such relief.”

Prior to Broasberg’s Dec. 5 order, HHS had asked the court not to intervene in the appeals process, citing a number of administrative and legislative actions it was taking to eliminate the backlog by 2019. One of those actions: HHS recently offered to settle disputed claims for inpatient services—a large portion of the claims at issue—for 66 cents on the dollar. A similar offer in 2014 resulted in the settlement of 350,000 claims for about $1.5 billion.

Previously, in September, the court denied HHS’s request to put litigation with the American Hospital Association on hold until Sept. 30, 2017.

Senate eyes confirmation hearings for Price

WASHINGTON – A key Senate committee will reportedly hold a confirmation hearing for Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., the nominee for secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, ahead of President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration.

An aide to Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, says the hearing could be held Jan. 18, according to news reports.

The HELP Committee is one of two committees of jurisdiction for the confirmation process. The other, the Senate Finance Committee, has not officially released dates for the hearing. The Finance Committee, chaired by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, holds the official vote.

Industry stakeholders have cheered Price’s nomination. A longtime champion of the HME industry, he has introduced bills to replace the competitive bidding program with a market-pricing program.

Lawmakers waste no time on repeal

WASHINGTON – Republicans in the House of Representatives have set Feb. 20 as a target date to get a bill repealing Obamacare to President-elect Donald Trump.

Trump himself plans to take executive actions to undo the Affordable Care Act on his first day in office, said Vice President-elect Mike Pence in an article on The Hill.com.

Healthcare experts have warned that repealing the program without an immediate replacement would create chaos. Twenty million people are covered under the act.

HME providers are no fans of the ACA. A recent HME Newspoll showed that 28% of respondents think repealing and replacing the program should be Rep. Tom Price’s top priority as secretary of the Department of Heath and Human Services.

ResMed launches new company

SAN DIEGO – ResMed has teamed up with Dr. Mehmet Oz and Pegasus Capital Advisors to launch SleepScore Labs, a new company focused on helping people understand and improve their sleep. SleepScore’s initial focus will be to compile and analyze consumer sleep data, starting with its national sleep study on sleepscore.com. It will also license SleepScore by ResMed technology for other consumer sleep devices, to update their tracking capabilities and improve their products, according to a press release. The company has already signed R&D contracts with several global leaders, including Lighting Science Group, which plans to leverage SleepScore technology to quantitatively measure the effectiveness of its GoodNight LED pre-sleep bulb. Dr. Oz will serve as the company’s brand ambassador and liaison to patients, as well as a board member and adviser, and a co-owner. ResMed and Pegasus will serve as equity partners. ResMed and Dr. Oz partnered in late 2016 to launch a national sleep survey.

Permobil doubles down on seating

LEBANON, Tenn. – Permobil has acquired custom molded seating manufacturer Prairie Seating. The acquisition provides Permobil with a platform for innovation and growth in the custom seating business, the company stated in a press release. It also complements Permobil’s existing portfolio of ROHO seating and positioning products, it says. “The timing of this acquisition is perfect, as it aligns with our growth ambitions and with our goal of adding premium product solutions to the already strong ROHO product portfolio,” said Tom Borcherding, president of Permobil Business Unit Seating and Positioning. Prairie Seating will continue to manufacture products from its Skokie, Ill., facility. Permobil’s initial focus for Prairie Seating will be U.S. sales, with an eye toward expansion opportunities in other countries, the company says.

Numotion expands reach in Carolinas

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. – Numotion has acquired the complex rehab division of Charlotte, N.C.-based BlueDot Medical, extending its reach and capacity in the Carolinas. BlueDot has been in business for more than 14 years, serving thousands of customers annually throughout North and South Carolina. “This acquisition will provide the disabled community in the Carolinas with greater access to mobility resources and an array of products and services,” said Mike Swinford, CEO of Numotion, in a press release. BlueDot’s 11 employees responsible for serving complex rehab customers have joined Numotion’s 25 employees at its Charlotte branch.

Capitala Finance exits investment in Drive Medical

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Capitala Finance Corp. has exited its investment in Medical Depot, doing business as Drive Medical, netting a realized gain of about $5 million with a cumulative cash-on-cash return of 4.7x, it has announced. “Our investment was a great opportunity to work with an excellent management team that was passionate about their mission, fully knowledgeable of their market space and was able to effectively execute multiple, complex, international acquisitions in a short timeframe,” stated Joe Alala, chairman and CEO of Capitala, in a press release. Drive and Clayton, Dubilier & Rice announced in August that the New York-based private equity firm would be making a “significant investment” in the company. Previously, Ferrer Freeman & Co., another New York-based PE firm, was a minority stakeholder in Drive. Capitala is a provider of capital to lower and traditional middle market companies. Since 1998, its managed funds have participated in more than 138 transactions, representing more than $1.3 billion of investments in a variety of industries in North America.

PSP Homecare makes ‘short list’

RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. – Proto Script Pharmaceutical Corp., doing business as PSP Homecare, announced Jan. 6 that it is a contract supplier for standard mobility equipment and general home medical equipment and related supplies and accessories as part of Medicare’s competitive bidding program. PSP is authorized to provide these bid items in 12 areas in California and Nevada, encompassing a total population of about 32.4 million people, it says. The contract runs from July 1, 2016 to Dec. 31, 2018. “The CMS contract places us on a short list of authorized Medicare approved suppliers in our competitive bid areas,” said Michelle Rico, CEO and president of PSP, in a press release. “(It) gives PSP Homecare a strong foothold in California and Nevada, two of the largest and fastest growing mobility products markets in the country. We anticipate building our existing business within these current areas and look forward to expanding into new markets supported by a comprehensive marketing program in the near future.” PSP has specialized in power wheelchairs and orthotics since 2011. It files reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

AAHomecare forms tech workgroup

WASHINGTON – AAHomecare has formed a Hi Tech Work Group to explore new technology and payment models. The group, chaired by Maura Toole, director of field marketing for Philips Healthcare, will focus on how the industry can bring new technology to the market, promote operational efficiencies and make sure providers are paid appropriately for these technologies. The work group’s initial focus will be on examining new and emerging technologies that can deliver measurable benefits for both HME patients and payers, such as reduced readmissions, and strategizing how to get payer to consider increased reimbursements or new payment models that take these improved outcomes into account.

CD&R closes deal on Drive

NEW YORK – Clayton, Dubilier & Rice has completed its equity investment in Drive DeVilbiss Healthcare, it announced Jan. 4. The deal allows Drive to continue its organic growth strategy, as well as provide the company with additional capital for future acquisitions. Drive has made 25 acquisitions since 2002, including the 2015 acquisition of DeVilbiss Healthcare. The deal was first announced in September. CD&R replaces Ferrer Freeman & Co., which has been a minority stockholder of Drive since 2008. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

GF Health Products welcomes congressman

ATLANTA – GF Health Products (Graham-Field) hosted Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Wis., to its Fond du Lac manufacturing facility here in December. Kurt Hellman, senior vice president of manufacturing operations, led a brief tour of the plant to highlight the facility's product lines and plant capabilities. Grothman is an advocate of bringing manufacturing back to the U.S.A., a goal of GF Health Products’ “Made in USA” initiative. GF Health Products makes healthcare products for the acute care, extended care, homecare and primary care markets.

ResMed logs major milestone

SAN DIEGO – ResMed has downloaded one billion nights of sleep data on its AirView remote patient monitoring platform. “This unprecedented amount of data enables predictive analytics to help physicians and providers better manage patients’ sleep apnea and COPD therapy, and ultimately improve their overall health,” said Mick Farrell, ResMed CEO, in a press release. “Reaching one billion nights is about more than just big data; it’s a testament to how the adoption and meaningful use of technology benefits patients, physicians and providers everywhere.” ResMed first made remote monitoring of CPAP patients available in 2004.

UnityPoint at Home cracks Excelera contract

URBANDALE, Iowa ­ – UnityPoint at Home, an integrated home health services provider, has joined the specialty pharmacy network of Excelera. The network provides members with a nationally scaled infrastructure and support to help them develop best practices and gain access to limited-distribution drugs and biologics and restrictive payer agreements so they can provide continuity of care for their patients with complex and chronic conditions. “We are delighted to welcome UnityPoint at Home into our national network,” said Jim Fox, CEO of Excelera, in a press release. “UnityPoint at Home is an example of an integrated health system looking to improve continuity of care for complex patients to lower costs and advance clinical and financial outcomes.” Excelera will partner with UnityPoint at Home to develop key specialty pharmacy capabilities, including training, operations, data aggregation, reporting for drug manufacturers and payers, and revenue cycle management. UnityPoint at Home’s services include adult and pediatric nursing care, rehabilitation therapy, personal care and home support, infusion therapy, respiratory therapy, palliative care, hospice and home medical equipment services. It serves patients and communities in Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin.

Strategic Healthcare Programs enters home infusion market

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Strategic Healthcare Programs, a provider of data analytics and benchmarking to home health agencies and hospice providers, has expanded its offerings to home infusion providers. SHP’s Home Infusion Pharmacy Solution allows providers to capture daily trends and insights from their clinical, financial, demographic and utilization data. “Pharmacies need these comprehensive reports to manage performance and demonstrate value as home infusion providers will need to compete based on quality outcomes and pay-for-performance reimbursements,” the company stated in a press release. The solution follows data standards recently published by the National Home Infusion Association that bring consistency to the industry and enable comparisons of outcomes and quality metrics. SHP partnered with Managed Health Care Associates (MHA), which owns The MED Group, to develop the solution.

Short takes: Pride, Etac, US Healthcare Supply

Pride Mobility has named Micah Swick director of sales. Swick was formerly national sales director for Mega/Windermere Motion, a leading supplier of power recline/lift chairs and mobility scooters. Joe Showfety has replaced Swick at Mega/Windermere…Etac CEO Torben Helbo will serve as interim president of North American sales and Convaid Products. Chris Braun, who previously held the position, departed the company this week. Convaid sold to Etac in 2015. A search is underway to replace Braun…US Healthcare Supply has received DMEPOS accreditation by the Accreditation Commission for Health Care. The Milford, N.J.-based provider offers diabetes and other medical supplies.