In brief: Lawmakers back capped-rental delay, Brightree Services cuts jobs

Friday, March 7, 2014

WASHINGTON – A group of lawmakers has written to CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner to express grave concerns with CMS’s plans to transition certain complex rehab items to capped-rental status on April 1. In the March 6 letter, the two representatives and two senators ask CMS to delay the transition until at least July 1 “to allow for the development of appropriate classification policies that provide patients with medically necessary CRT equipment in a reasonable and cost-effective way.” Industry stakeholders contend, and these lawmakers agree, that CMS is basing its decision on Medicare claims data that is more than 27 years old and fundamentally flawed. CMS has said that congressional action would be needed to update the statute that requires use of the outdated data, according to the letter. Sens. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., and Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y., ask for a prompt response to their request for delay.

Brightree Services cuts jobs

PADDOCK LAKE, Wis. – Brightree Services, a Brightree subsidiary, has laid off 50 employees from its Paddock Lake, Wis., office, the Kenosha News reports. The company will still provide services there, but it may eliminate more jobs between now and June 30, according to the story. “Competitive bidding, a process mandated by Medicare, is just one of those pressures that by itself drove down total reimbursable amounts across our billing service customer base by 45%,” said Judson Phillips, marketing and communications director, for Brightree. Brightree Services had 175 employees in the Paddock Lake office. The company moved there from Antioch, Ill., with 80 employees in 2010, the story reports.

New coalition seeks to protect urologicals

NEW YORK – The United Spinal Association and a group of manufacturers have banded together to ensure people with disabilities have access to needed supplies. The newly formed Urology Coalition is particularly concerned about the impact of competitive bidding, which it says limits patient access, and the future expansion of the program to include urologicals. The coalition will also work to ensure access under Medicaid and private insurances. In general, the Urology Coalition’s mission is to act on health policy matters that: maximize function and independent living for people with disabilities; provide people with disabilities with their choice of, and access to, prescribed and medically appropriate urological medical technology and supplies; and ensure appropriate coding, coverage and payment. In addition to manufacturers, the coalition will include consumers, disability advocates, clinicians and physician groups. Members are: ABC Home Medical, Adapta Medical, CR Bard, Coloplast, Convatec, Cure Medical, Hollister, McKesson, Teleflex Medical, UroMed, Wellspect Healthcare, Simon Foundation for Continence and the United Spinal Association.

VGM gathers bidding comments

WATERLOO, Iowa – The VGM Group has received 280 replies so far for its online competitive bidding survey, and it doesn’t want to stop there. The group created the survey to make it easier for providers to respond to CMS’s recent request for public comment on a proposal to expand the competitive bidding program nationwide in 2016. CMS on Feb. 24 published an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking seeking input on developing a methodology to adjust rates in non-bid areas based on bid rates; and on bundling payments for certain DME, including complex rehab and enteral nutrition. VGM says its survey clarifies the six questions asked by CMS. It will forward the results to the agency by the March 28 deadline. Take the survey here.

Medline to open $18M distribution center

MUNDELEIN, Ill. – Medline Industries will open a new, state-of-the-art distribution center in Lincoln County, N.C., in early 2015, the manufacturer/distributor of medical and surgical supplies announced March 3. Medline expects to begin construction on the $18 million, 400,000-square-foot center this spring. The center will be located in Lincoln County Industrial Park and will create about 40 new jobs. When the center opens, Medline will have more than 40 distribution centers throughout the United States, along with 19 manufacturing facilities. It has a team of 1,200 sales reps to support its line of 350,000 medical and surgical products. The center will be constructed using the latest energy efficient technology and undergo LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification review. Features will include motion sensors to keep lights off in aisles when not in use, 200 skylights, and super-sized fans to reduce dependency on air conditioning and heating. Medline will use the center to service hospitals, nursing homes, surgery centers, home care agencies and other healthcare providers throughout North Carolina and surrounding states. The company serves as the primary distributor to more than 450 major hospitals and healthcare systems in the U.S. In 2013, Medline’s sales increased 13% to $5.8 billion.

Pharmacy partners with HME, becomes ‘healthcare destination’

MEDINA, Ohio – Discount Drug Mart has partnered with Hastings Professional Medical Equipment to make health care more convenient for its customers. The new affiliation will allow patients to work with their local Discount Drug Mart Pharmacy to get home medical equipment, such as oxygen, nebulizers, hospital beds, power wheelchairs and more, according to a release. “Discount Drug Mart will now be a place people can find answers who are struggling with questions about home health care needs, as well as the ability to pick up their prescriptions at the same time, truly making Discount Drug Mart a healthcare destination,” the release states. Discount Drug Mart has 71 stores in more than 20 counties across Ohio. Its slogan is “Discount Drug Mart Saves You the Runaround…We Have Everything You Need.”

Colonial takes interest in Baar

ORLANDO, Fla. – Colonial Medical Supplies has become a minority shareholder in Channahon, Ill.-based Baar Home Medical. As part of the agreement, Colonial will renegotiate Baar’s pricing with manufacturers, and help it expand into new product categories and apply best billing practices. Colonial is also adding Baar’s location to its private insurance and competitive bidding contracts. Colonial won more than 600 contracts to supply walkers, oxygen, CPAP, manual and power wheelchairs, hospital beds and support surfaces in nearly all bid areas. In 2013, it began seeking strategic partners, instead of subcontractors, to more directly serve patients.

3B offers automatic sleep data collection

LAKE WALES, Fla. – 3B Medical’s iCodeConnect cloud-based patient management portal now integrates voice recognition and patient auto-dialing to better help providers collect sleep compliance data. Here’s how it works: During patient set-up, the provider can select the auto-dial option for the patient. At scheduled times, iCodeConnec will automatically call the patient and walk them through retrieving his or her iCode. The iCode string can be entered by the patient using the number pad on the phone or by voice recognition. Then iCodeConnect routinely calls and collects patient data directly from the patient and the iCodeConnect patient portal will auto-populate with necessary compliance data.  

Permobil previews new technology

LEBANON, Tenn. – Permobil is previewing the Virtual Seating Coach this week at the International Seating Symposium in Vancouver. The technology coaches wheelchair users through their seating regimen for improved compliance and health outcomes. By installing an application on the wheelchair user’s smartphone, clinicians are able to program specific seating instructions, including the amount of tilt and recline, the hold time for the position and the number of times a day the functions should be used. The Virtual Seating Coach, which was developed by the University of Pittsburgh and VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System’s Engineering Research Laboratories, will be available on certain Permobil chairs later this year.

101 Mobility ramp spans Mississippi

ST. LOUIS – 101 Mobility installed a temporary 1,100-square-foot aluminum wheelchair ramp on the new Stan Musial Veterans Bridge to ensure an opening ceremony was fully accessible. The ramp installation was done in windy, subzero conditions, according to a press release. “At one point, the wind was blowing so hard that it threw a 24-foot ramp straight up into the air,” said 101 Mobility St. Louis owner Brad Kohlbracher. The opening ceremony included a ribbon cutting and a 5K run and cycling road race.

Provider transitions to employee ownership

GARDEN CITY, N.Y. – Home Medical Equipment, a provider of custom mobility products, equipment and services, is now 100% owned by its Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). “Our new ownership structure promises great things for the future of our company,” said Bill Tobia, president of Home Medical Equipment, in a release. “It’s a meaningful change for all of our hardworking, dedicated employees who now share ownership in the company they helped to build.” CSG Partners served as the exclusive financial advisor to Home Medical Equipment on the transition. “Not only is the ESOP a highly strategic liquidity structure for shareholders, it also provides exceptional benefits to employees and positions the company for long-term success,” said Stephen Berman, a managing director at CSG, in the release.

Sigvaris celebrates 150 years in business

PEACHTREE CITY, Ga. – Sigvaris is celebrating 150 years in business by giving customers the chance to win a weekend trip to Atlanta and an invitation to its anniversary party in July. To determine the winner, Sigvaris is asking customers to share their stories of how using the company’s compression garments has helped them. “The theme for the party is ‘Every Day a Step Further’ and giving people an opportunity to share their story is the perfect opportunity to celebrate both our commitment to leg health and the longevity of our company,” said Clay Walker, North America marketing manager, in a release. In addition to the trip, Sigvaris will be giving away 10 pairs of Sigvaris Well Being or Sigvaris Sports products in the 10 weeks leading up to the announcement of the winner on June 2. For official rules, go to

Jurisdiction C DME MAC releases results of prepay reviews

A claim review of the initial month of therapy for CPAP devices (E0601) for Oct. 1, 2013, to Dec. 31, 2013, showed a denial rate of 48%. In the previous quarter, the rate was 56%. The most common reason for denial: The documentation did not include a copy of a board certified document, screen print from a national certification agency, etc., that verifies that the physician who interpreted the sleep test met policy requirements (30%)…A claim review for oxygen concentrators (E1390) for Oct. 1, 2013, to Dec. 31, 2013, showed a denial rate of 68%. In the previous quarter, it was 58%. The most common reason for denial: The medical records that were received did not document that the beneficiary was seen and evaluated by the treating physician within 30 days prior to the date of initial certification (24%)…A claim review for Group 2 standard power wheelchairs with Captains chair (K0823) for Oct. 1, 2013, to Dec. 31, 2013, showed a denial rate of 45%. In the previous quarter, it was 54%. The most common reason for denial: The face-to-face requirement did not provide a measurable assessment of upper extremity strength and function, so the reviewer could not rule out that the beneficiary was unable to use an optimally configured manual wheelchair (21%)…A claim review for inhalation drugs (J7605, J7606, J7613, J7620 and J7626) for Oct. 1, 2013, to Dec. 31, 2013, showed a denial rate of 56%. In the previous quarter, it was 53%. The most common reason for denial: No medical records were provided for review (46%).

Short takes

Mobile, Ala.-based Supreme Medical is a provider to the stars, supplying medical supplies and equipment to the show Grey’s Anatomy, the company said March 2. The national wholesale distributor is working with the prop department at ABC Studios to deliver surgical supplies and hospital equipment for the show, now in its 10th season…The Board of Certification/Accreditation (BOC) has won a Stevie Award for sales and customer service in the “Best Use of Technology in Customer Services” category. It’s the second consecutive year that BOC has won the award.

People news

Beth Ludwickhas joined AAHomecare and will be responsible for implementing communications strategies that position the association as the voice of the homecare industry. Ludwick comes to AAHomecare with six years of communications and marketing experience at the largest trade association representing the food industry, the Grocery Manufacturers Association…Dan Fedor has joined the reimbursement team at The VGM Group. He will work with Peggy Walker and Ronda Buhrmester. Fedor comes to VGM from The Mobility Consultants, where he was CEO and compliance consultant, and before that, Pride Mobility Products…Jenn Wolfe, a disability advocate, lobbyist and Ms. Wheelchair Iowa 2011, has been selected to spearhead the United Spinal Association’s UsersFirst program. Wolfe replaces Ann Eubank, who left the association to be the executive director of the Center for Independent Living in Nashville…Stu Novitz has joined B&B Medical Technologies as vice president of sales and marketing. He will work to expand the company’s growing international presence and strengthen its current distribution network. Previously, he spearheaded Clement Clarke’s efforts to extend its reach into North American medical markets.