In brief: Medicaid payments resume, Invacare quizzes Obama advisor

Sunday, September 28, 2008

SACRAMENTO - After the governor and the state legislature finally agreed on a budget last week, HME providers in California were looking forward to getting paid again. Provider Tom Lambert said he hasn't seen a check from Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program, since July. "I've had to lay off about 15 employees," said Lambert, president of Maximum Comfort in Redding, Calif. "We've had to take our trucks off the road, because we can't afford to put gas in them. If patients can bring their equipment in, we'll service it." The budget stalemate lasted 81 days, halting payments to healthcare institutions and other service providers. In July and August, the state withheld $4.25 billion in payments. The check writes should resume "promptly," said Bob Achermann, executive director of the California Association of Medical Product Suppliers (CAMPS) last week.

Invacare quizzes Obama advisor
ELYRIA, Ohio - Mal Mixon, Invacare's CEO, met last week with former Sen. Tom Daschle, the top healthcare advisor of presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama. "They had a wide-ranging discussion on the merits of home health care as the solution to the two main issues confronting healthcare providers, patients and payers: quality and cost," said Cara Bachenheimer, Invacare's senior vice president of government relations. Daschle agreed that he and Obama believe in the "deinstitutionalization of health care," Bachenheimer said. He also agreed to an open door policy as the campaign for the White House progresses.

Part B premiums remain steady
WASHINGTON - The standard Medicare Part B premium will remain the same for 2009: $96.40 per month. It's the first time since 2000 that there's no increase in the Part B premium. Normally, it increases at the same rate as average Part B expenditures from year to year. Beneficiaries who earn more than $85,000 per year will pay a higher Medicare Part B premium than the standard premium: between $134.50 and $308.30 per month, based on income level. The Medicare Part B deductible for 2009: $135.

Providers prep for coding overhaul
WASHINGTON - CMS will host a series of provider calls to review the ICD-10 provider and diagnostic codes, which replace the ICD-9 codes. The calls will address the major impacts providers should consider when updating systems to ICD-10 codes. The series of calls kicks off Nov. 12 from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. EST. Registration information is forthcoming.

Permobil makes Web site 'fun and appealing'
LEBANON, Tenn. - Permobil's new Web site uses animation, color and music to provide wheelchair users with product information, the manufacturer announced last week. When a user clicks on a wheelchair, he can get more product information; design his own version of the chair; and watch live-action demos of chair's functions. By presenting information in this way, Permobil hopes to better educate and empower users, according to a release. "With this new Web site, we utilized the latest design technologies to convey motion, and we did it in a fun and appealing way," stated Marketing Manager Barry Steelman.

Distributor slashes prices on rehab software
KINGSTON, Ill. - Stonebridge Holistic, a distributor of Symphony Rehab, has cut the price of the rehab management software program from $1,200 per user to $299.95 per user, it announced last week. "The purpose for the cut is to keep Symphony Rehab in line with other major software products that DME dealers purchase for their workers such as MS Office" stated Phil Guirl, president of Stonebridge Holistic, in a release. Symphony Rehab released version 3.0 in April. New features: a "dynamic tracker" that gives users the ability to design their own work flow processes.

GE: Bringing telemonitoring to life
NEW YORK, N.Y. - GE Healthcare has entered into an agreement with a manufacturer of a remote patient monitoring system for seniors, the company announced last week. GE will distribute and co-market Living Independently Group's QuietCare monitoring systems. The QuietCare system alerts caregivers to atypical activity patterns or behavioral changes that may signal a health issue or emergency situation. Per the agreement, the companies will use GE's Global Research Center to make advances in remote patient monitoring and diagnostics. GE will take a minority ownership in Living Independently. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Danish manufacturer seeks U.S. presence
MINNEAPOLIS - Liberty Diversified Industry, a portfolio management company based here, has acquired Ergolet, a Danish manufacturer of patient mobility aids, the two companies announced in September. Liberty plans to expand Ergolet, which has a strong market presence in Europe among hospitals and senior care facilities, into a global company, according to a press release. As part of the acquisition, Liberty's Jeff Schwingler will become general manager of Ergolet and work with the manufacturer's current management team. "An early part of our plans are to grow our presence in North America, where our aging population can benefit from Ergolet's innovative and high-quality products set," Schwingler said.

Mobility provider offers product reviews
RALEIGH, N.C. - U.S. Medical Supplies has introduced independent product reviews to its Web site,, the provider of home mobility products announced Sept. 23. Customers who have bought and used the products write the reviews. The product reviews will ensure that the customer can receive a better understanding of the products and their possible applications before making a purchase, according to a release. The reviews are powered by Power Reviews. U.S. Medical Supplies sells lift chairs, stair lifts, mobility scooters, electric wheelchairs, exercise and fitness equipment, and more.

Study links COPD drugs, heart attacks
CHICAGO - Two COPD drugs have been linked to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes, according to a study released in the Sept. 24 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Ipratropium bromide and tiotropium bromideare, both inhaled anticholinergics, were studied in randomized controlled trials of COPD patients with at least 30 days of treatment. A review of more than 100 articles and 17 trials of 14,783 patients were analyzed. An abstract of the article can be viewed at