In brief: Lawmakers introduce bid bill, SBA hosts stakeholders at hearing

Friday, June 20, 2014

WASHINGTON – Reps. Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio, and John Larson, D-Conn., have introduced a bill that would require providers to obtain bid bonds as part of future rounds of competitive bidding. H.R. 4920, the Medicare DMEPOS Competitive Bidding Improvement Act of 2014, would also require providers to prove they meet licensure requirements before they submit bids. “AAHomecare is putting the full weight of the industry behind this practical piece of legislation,” stated Tom Ryan, president and CEO of the association, in a press release. “All providers and manufacturers should immediately ask their elected officials to support H.R. 4920.” Per the new bill, if a provider receives and accepts a contract from CMS, the bid bond would turn into a performance bond. If a provider receives a contract offer but does not accept it and its bid is at or below the bid price, CMS has the option to collect on the bond. AAHomecare believes the bill will “incentivize more responsible bids.” “When bids don’t have to be honored, the whole process becomes hollow,” stated Robert Steedley, president of Barnes Healthcare Services and chairman of the association’s board of directors.

SBA to take up industry issues at next hearing

WASHINGTON – The Small Business Administration (SBA) will discuss the impact of competitive bidding and audits at its National Regulatory Fairness Hearing on June 25. The meeting is an opportunity for business organizations, trade associations, chambers of commerce and related groups that serve small businesses to report unfair or excessive federal regulatory enforcement affecting their members, according to a notice from the SBA. Several members of the HME industry are scheduled to testify, including Tom Ryan of AAHomecare, Peggy Walker of U.S. Rehab and seven HME providers. The hearing will take place 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Environmental Protection Agency, William Jefferson Clinton East Building. It’s open to the public, but advance registration is required. The SBA last took up competitive bidding a year ago.

Medtronic buys Covidien

MINNEAPOLIS and DUBLIN – Medtronic has agreed to buy Covidien in a cash-and-stock transaction valued at about $42.9 billion, the companies announced June 15. The combined company will have a comprehensive product portfolio, a diversified growth profile and broad geographic reach, with 87,000 employees in more than 150 countries, according to a press release. “We are excited to reach this agreement with Covidien, which further advances our mission to alleviate pain, restore health and extend life for patients around the world,” stated Omar Ishrak, chairman and CEO of Medtronic, in the release. The boards of directors of both companies have approved the transaction. After the transaction is completed, Medtronic and Covidien will be combined under a new entity called Medtronic plc. It will have principal offices in Ireland, where Covidien’s current headquarters reside and where both companies have a longstanding presence. Medtronic plc will be led by Ishrak and will continue to have operational headquarters in Minneapolis, where Medtronic currently employs more than 8,000. Per the transaction, each outstanding share of Covidien will be converted into the right to receive $35.19 in cash and 0.956 of an ordinary share of Medtronic plc. The per-share consideration represents a premium of 29% to Covidien’s closing stock price on June 13, the last trading day prior to the announcement. The transaction will allow Medtronic to enhance its existing portfolio, offer greater breadth across clinical areas and create entry points into new therapies. It will also allow the company to better package complementary therapies and solutions to drive value and efficiencies in healthcare systems. Finally, it will boost its capabilities in emerging market R&D and manufacturing.

More education, communication needed between COPD patients, physicians

WASHINGTON – More than half of COPD patients don’t fully understand their disease or how to manage it, according to a new survey from the COPD Foundation. The two-part Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Experience (COPE) surveyed both patients and physicians. Nearly 62% of patients said they don’t know much about COPD exacerbations—a leading cause of hospitalization in the United States. Another 16% said they don’t know what an exacerbation is at all, and 60% said they don’t have a plan for dealing with an exacerbation. By contrast, 98% of physicians said they discuss exacerbations with patients and 92% said they develop action plans with them. The survey also found that many patients aren’t being diagnosed early enough. On this, patients and physicians appear to agree. Patients said they experience symptoms of COPD for two years and nine months, on average, before diagnosis; physicians said that 39% of their patients had reached a “severe” or “very severe” disease state by diagnosis. “COPD can be treated—but it’s crucial for doctors to diagnose it early and for patients to follow the appropriate therapeutic strategies to improve symptoms, increase activity, and reduce the chances of exacerbations,” said MeiLan Han, M.D., M.S., associate professor of Medicine in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care at the University of Michigan.

Does mail-order program meet requirement?

WASHINGTON – CMS may want to consider whether subsequent rounds of its national mail-order program for diabetes supplies meet a 50% requirement outlined in the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act (MIPPA). The Office of Inspector General (OIG) says 22 suppliers submitted at least 43 types of test strips for the three-month period from July to September 2013. Two types of test strips accounted for about 45% of the Medicare mail-order market share, three types accounted for 59% and 10 types accounted for 90%. The 50% requirement prohibits CMS from awarding competitive bidding contracts for diabetes supplies to suppliers that don’t demonstrate that their bid covers at least 50%, by volume, of all types of test strips. The OIG’s report is based on a sample of 1,210 claims drawn from a population of about 505,000 claims for test strips provided to beneficiaries during this period.

ResMed CEO sells 3,200 shares

NEW YORK – ResMed CEO Michael Farrell sold 3,200 shares of company stock on the open market June 16. Farrell sold the shares at an average price of $53.20 for a total of $170,240. He now directly owns 106,655 shares valued at approximately $5.7 million. Farrell is one of a number of execs at the company who has sold shares in May and June.

ASP: Brovana sees another increase

BALTIMORE – Payment increased for brand-name drug Brovana (J7605) in the third quarter of 2014 to $6.39 per dose, up 25 cents from the previous quarter, according to average sales price (ASP) figures released June 17. By contrast, Perforomist (J7606) saw payment decrease 29 cents to $6.62 per dose. Payment for budesonide (J7626) decreased 20 cents to $4.90 per dose. Payment for albuterol (J7613) stayed relatively flat at just over 13 cents per dose, and payment for ipratropium (J7644) was unchanged at just under 12 cents per dose.

Senior Medicare Patrol saves $9 million

WASHINGTON – Medicare/Medicaid recoveries attributed to Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) projects increased 50%, to $9.1 million from 2012 to 2013, according to a report from the Office of Inspector General (OIG). However, total savings to beneficiaries decreased from $133,971 to $41,718. As part of SMP projects, 5,406 active volunteers conducted 148,235 one-on-one counseling sessions and held 14,924 group education sessions in 2013. SMP trains retired professionals and other seniors to recognize and report patterns of healthcare fraud.

HME provider faces prison time, fines

BATON ROUGE, La. – A federal court jury has found Ahaoma Boniface Ohia, owner of All-Star Medical Supplies, guilty of wire fraud, it was announced June 12. Ohia was accused of billing Medicare for durable medical equipment that was less expensive than what was provided or that wasn’t provided at all, according to a press release. Ohia, who was taken into custody after the verdict, faces up to 140 years in prison, fines of up to $1.75 million, and restitution to victims.

Wheelchair team gets replacement chairs

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – It’s a happy ending for the wheelchair basketball team Iowa Chairiots. On June 14, the team received 20 new wheelchairs to replace wheelchairs that were stolen back in December. Tim Barrett, program director, told a local news outlet that the theft was actually a “blessing.” “Our equipment was outdated and unsafe, and now we have brand new equipment,” he said. In April, police arrested Rick Smith in the theft. Smith had many of the stolen wheelchairs in his home, but most of them were destroyed. The new wheelchairs have a value of about $30,000 and were paid for by donations, including a $12,000 donation from The VGM Group.

Performance Health buys TheraPearl

AKRON, Ohio – Performance Health, the manufacturer behind TheraBand, Biofreeze, Perform, Cramer, Bon Vital and Hygenic branded products, has acquired TheraPearl, a creator of hot and cold therapy products. The acquisition brings strength and scale to Performance Health’s emerging retail business, the company states in a press release. TheraPearl’s products use a proprietary Pearl Technology that allows them to be chilled or heated. They conform to the body and can be used for 20 minutes of hot/cold therapy. The products are available at most retailers throughout the U.S. and Canada, including Walmart, Rite Aid, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Target. In March, they became available in Europe at the pharmacy chain Boots. TheraPearl will continue to operate from its headquarters in Maryland.

Aeroflow updates website

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Aeroflow has launched a new website that makes it easier for customers to find information on products and services. The website features the following new tools: patient/parent education resources; a cost savings calculator to help customers make informed decisions about whether to get equipment through insurance or buy online; a search function; a blog; a medical equipment look-up tool by zip code; and forms that make qualifying online easier. “We realized Aeroflow’s website is a first-impression to many seeking medical equipment or cost-assistance through insurance,” stated Maria Eilers, online marketing manager, in a press release. “The new website does a better job reflecting our mission to provide quality care by offering more for the convenience of those we serve.”

Short take

New Berlin, Wis.-based Home Care Medical has received reaccreditation from the Joint Commission, the provider announced June 18. Home Care Medical says it was the first accredited provider in the state in 1990.