In brief: Lawmakers, stakeholders seek extended deadline for letter to CMS

Friday, May 31, 2013

WASHINGTON – With Congress on recess until June 3, industry stakeholders hope extending the deadline for a “Dear Colleague” letter will allow time to get more signatures. The letter to CMS, co-authored by Reps. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., and Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, urges lawmakers and CMS to support an administrative delay for Round 2 of competitive bidding. "It should provide the opportunity to get well over 100 signatures," said Seth Johnson, vice president of government affairs for Pride Mobility. Johnson, who believes the deadline could be extended through next week, said the number of signatures, as of press time, was about 72. The letter, which highlights congressional concerns about CMS's lack of transparency, and about CMS's violation of certain state licensure requirements, may be the best means of applying pressure to achieve a delay, stakeholders say. "From our perspective our focus is on a political push; a legislative push is much tougher," says Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare. "With the licensure issues we have a pretty compelling message that a lot of folks on Capitol Hill can support." A delay would give the industry more time to get H.R. 1717, a bill to replace competitive bidding with a market pricing program, passed and implemented. It currently has 96 co-sponsors.

Reps. to CMS: Reconsider delivery restrictions on diabetes supplies

WASHINGTON – A bipartisan group of congressmen, led by Reps. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., and Peter Welch, D-Vt., are questioning Medicare’s decision to prohibit independent community pharmacies from providing same-day, home delivery of diabetes testing supplies to homebound seniors, according to an National Community Pharmacy Association (NCPA) press release. “If implemented in July 2013, this policy will cause disruption in the care provided to Medicare patients,” the letter stated. “Now that retail and mail order suppliers receive the same level of reimbursements, we believe there is no further reason to prohibit home delivery by retail pharmacies.” In the release, Douglas Hoey, RPh, MBA, NCPA CEO, characterized the policy as “absurd” and “indefensible,” and said it must be overturned. The American Taxpayer and Relief Act, passed in January, lowered the payment rate for diabetes testing supplies obtained at retail locations to the national mail-order program rates.

OIG: PECOS, NPPES data 'inaccurate'
WASHINGTON – The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) is calling for improvements to the Provider Enrollment, Chain, and Ownership System (PECOS) and the National Plan and Provider Enumeration System (NPPES), after a sample of stored Medicare provider records contained errors. In a report issued May 28, the agency also found that CMS did not verify most provider information in either enrollment database. “Medicare provider data in NPPES and PECOS were often inaccurate and occasionally incomplete and were generally inconsistent between the two databases,” an OIG press release stated. In PECOS, provider data were inaccurate in 58% of records, while in NPPES, 48% of records were inaccurate. The most common inaccuracies were with addresses, necessary for contacting providers and identifying trends in fraud and waste, according to the release. The OIG recommends that CMS implement program integrity safeguards for Medicare provider enrollment, require more verification of enrollment data, and better detect and correct inaccurate and incomplete data for new and established records. CMS concurred with all three recommendations.

VGM calls on providers to testify at small business hearing
SEATTLE – The Small Business Administration (SBA) plans to conduct a field hearing in which providers can voice their concerns about the negative impact of competitive bidding and Medicare audits on small businesses, according to a bulletin from the VGM Group. To testify at SBA’s Regulatory Fairness Hearing, slated for June 6 at The Rainier Club in Seattle, providers should register in advance by contacting VGM Government Relations. Those unable to testify in person have the option of submitting written testimony here. A CMS representative will be present at the hearing, the bulletin noted.

DeVilbiss moves home

SOMERSET, Pa. – DeVilbiss Healthcare, a provider of respiratory supplies, plans to create between 20 and 25 full-time jobs by moving its manufacturing operations from China back to Somerset, Pa., according to a press release. The company expects to complete the move by the end of September 2013. Production lines for the DeVilbiss iFill Portable Oxygen Filling Station have returned to the United States, and the company is in the process of moving several lines of compressor nebulizers and oxygen concentrators back as well, the release noted. The relocation was facilitated by a U.S. Department of Agriculture rural development loan, which will help cover the costs of purchasing and installing manufacturing equipment. DeVilbiss in 2007 moved several production lines to China to decrease costs. The company cited improving economic circumstances and product efficiencies as catalysts for bringing the jobs back to the United States.

Providers clean up

SALT LAKE CITY – For the fifth straight year Alpine Home Medical Equipment received Utah’s Best of State award in the merchandising and consumer services category, according to a press release. Criteria for the nomination include the company’s background and mission, financial achievements, customer satisfaction, product quality, workforce skills, innovations, acquisitions and membership affiliations, to name a few. Alpine Home Medical also won the Pro Patria Award, presented annually by the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) to companies demonstrating support to National Guard and Reserve employees through their leadership and practices….Home Care Medical, based in New Berlin, Wis., reeled in a community partnership award from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, according to a press release. Home Care won the award for the multiple workshops focusing on mobility products that the company's complex rehab team presented at the university.

AAHomecare members elect new directors

WASHINGTON – AAHomecare bid farewell to several directors, while welcoming others to the board during its annual membership meeting held during the association’s Washington Legislative Conference May 22-23, according to a bulletin from the organization. During the meeting, in which AAHomecare and NAIMES officially merged, Robert Steedley, president of Barnes Healthcare Services in Valdosta, Ga., was appointed as chairman. In addition to Steedley, the executive officers at AAHomecare include: John Letizia, vice chair, of Laurel Medical Supplies; Scott Meuser, secretary, of Pride Mobility Products; Alan Landauer, treasurer, of Landauer Metropolitan.

Woman sentenced for $11M fraud scheme

LAS VEGAS – A Nevada woman who defrauded Medicare of $11.1 million in an HME billing scheme was sentenced to more than four years in prison, according to a press release. Her sentence also includes three years of supervised release, and criminal forfeiture of $11.1 million in assets. Alegria Phankonsy, 43, formerly of Orange County, Calif., pleaded guilty in November 2012 to one count of healthcare fraud and one count of tax evasion. Between March 2005 and Feb. 2011, Phankonsy operated several HME companies in Las Vegas, using multiple aliases. During that time, she fraudulent billed Medicare for medical equipment, including leg prostheses and power wheelchairs, which had not been ordered by a physician, were not needed by clients or were not provided to clients at all. To identify clients, Phankonsy enlisted marketers in southern California to obtain Medicare information from individuals, which was then used to bill Medicare for the unnecessary items. In addition, Phankonsy, by underreporting $7.8 million in gross receipts, bilked the government out of approximately $2.4 million, according to the release.

Vendor short takes

Covidien received approval to offload its pharmaceuticals division, Mallinckrodt, which will take place June 28 … The VGM Group has partnered with the van Halem Group to offer members discounted rates for monthly compliance packages … Breathe Technologieshas received Food and Drug Administration approval for its Breathe Sleep System…Invacare is sponsoring the 27th annual National Veterans Golden Age Games, scheduled for May 30-June 4 in Buffalo, N.Y. … Convaid created a new Fund-A-Chair Program designed to raise funds for families toward the purchase of a Convaid wheelchair… CPAP Horizon Project’s new software application for providers, ManageMyCPAP, is now in the beta testing phase … The Action Bag Company was named one of the 2013 best places to work in Illinois by the Daily Herald Business Ledger, in partnership with the Human Resources Management Association of Chicago, the Illinois State Chamber of Commerce, and the Workforce Boards of Metropolitan Chicago.