In brief: Number of oxygen providers dwindles, AHP buys time

Sunday, October 25, 2009

MIAMI - The number of oxygen providers in certain areas of the country has declined by as much as 50%, the Accredited Medical Equipment Providers of America (AMEPA) reported last week. In Los Angeles County in California, for example, there are 120 oxygen providers today compared to 258 in April 2008. During the same time, in Miami-Dade County in Florida, the number of oxygen providers dropped from 401 to 205. Riverside County in California saw a 56% drop in the number of oxygen providers, from 48 last year to 21 this year. Those providers cover a 7,200-square-mile area. Rural areas have also seen a decline in the number of oxygen providers. Leavenworth County, Kansas, and Hunt County, Texas, have both seen a 50% drop, from 10 providers to 5 providers each. AMEPA attributes the drop-off to the 9.5% reimbursement cut that went into effect Jan. 1 of this year, the 36-month cap on oxygen payment, and expenses related to accreditation and surety bond requirements.

Gov't busts $26M DME fraud ring

LOS ANGELES - The Medicare Fraud Strike Force announced last week that it has busted a DME fraud ring in Los Angeles with ties to the Santa Ana-based Brook Street Gang. The strike force has charged 20 defendants, most of them residing in the Los Angeles area, in seven cases involving $26 million in fraudulent Medicare claims for power wheelchairs, orthotics and hospital beds. Among the defendants: Thirty-year-old Michael Martinez, who allegedly paid relatives and individuals linked to the Brook Street Gang $5,000 to act as straw owners for four fraudulent DME companies. The companies--Mercy Medical Supplies, Chatsworth Medical, All Your Needs Healthcare Products and Global Meridian Management--submitted about $11.2 million in fraudulent claims for medical unnecessary power wheelchairs and orthotic devices. Martinez faces a maximum statutory penalty of 75 years in federal prison. The other defendants face 15 years in prison.

American HomePatient buys more time

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. - American HomePatient (AHP) has entered into a third forbearance agreement with NexBank and a majority of secured debt holders for $226 million that it was due to repay Oct. 1. The new due date: Nov. 1. "The parties to the forbearance agreement have agreed to not exercise, prior to Nov. 1, 2009, any of their rights or remedies for the company's failure to repay the debt in full on the maturity date," AHP stated in a release. "The company, the agent and the forbearance holders continue to work toward a resolution. However, there can be no assurance a resolution will be reached with favorable terms to the company and its stockholders or at all." AHP's debt was originally due Aug. 1.

AAH: 'Mark your calendars'

ARLINGTON, Va. - AAHomecare has announced the dates of its annual legislative conference: March 1-3, 2010. The conference, which includes lobbying visits with lawmakers and their staffs, will take place at the Capital Hilton in Washington, D.C., the same location as last year. "It is crucial for the HME sector to take part in the legislative process and speak with members of Congress about the value of home care," AAHomecare stated in a bulletin to members last week. "Please mark your calendars and plan to attend." For more information, contact Kim Kianka at

Arcadian expands 'strong foothold' in New York

PINE BROOK, N.J. - Arcadian Healthcare has acquired Brooklyn Respiratory Home Care in Brooklyn, N.Y., the provider announced last week. Arcadian Healthcare plans to expand Brooklyn Respiratory's services, it stated in a release. "Services will now be offered on a greater scale," the release sated. "Arcadian Healthcare not only provides respiratory therapy, oxygen therapy and ventilator care support, but also will be a one-stop shop for Brooklyn Respiratory patients and referral sources by being able to service and provide DME and enteral therapy, all under one roof." Arcadian Healthcare has a "strong foothold" in the five boroughs of New York City, as well as in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware, according to the release.

Report: Wheelchair market will double in five years

DUBLIN, Ireland - The worldwide wheelchair market will grow from $3.9 billion in 2009 to $7.9 billion in 2015, according to a new report from Research and Markets. The 484-page report describes the market as "poised for significant growth" due to an aging population and improved technology. The report acknowledges that "reimbursement has been a significant market factor," but it states: "As baby boomers age and need wheelchairs, they will be willing to pay directly for mobility and comfort as they do for homes and cars now. This trend will assure market growth worldwide."