In brief: Republicans push through Price’s confirmation, reps introduce separate benefit legislation

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Friday, February 3, 2017

WASHINGTON – The 14 Republican members of the Senate Finance Committee have voted to confirm Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., as secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services, according to news reports.

Price’s confirmation now goes to the Senate floor for a full vote.

Democrats made headlines on Jan. 31, when they boycotted the vote on Price scheduled to take place at 10 that morning, saying they wanted more time to ask questions about his background. An article in the Wall Street Journal reported that Price received a special discounted rate for stocks of an Australian pharmaceutical company named Innate Immunotherapies.

Price, the architect of an alternative to Medicare’s competitive bidding program called the market-pricing program, is a popular choice among HME stakeholders. His long-standing desire to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, popular with President Donald Trump and Republicans, also resonates with stakeholders.

Eighty-five percent of respondents to a recent HME Newspoll said having Price as secretary would be positive for the HME industry. Fifty-six percent said his first priority should be repealing the bid program and replacing it with MPP, followed closely with 28% saying it should be repealing and replacing the ACA.

In overseeing HHS, Price would manage an annual budget of more than $1 trillion. The agency encompasses CMS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, among others.

Price has endured long and grueling hearings before not only the Senate Finance Committee on Jan. 24 but also the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, known as HELP, on Jan. 18.

Reps. Crowley, Sensenbrenner introduce separate benefit bill for complex rehab

WASHINGTON – Reps. Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., and Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., have introduced a bill that would create a separate benefit for complex rehab technology. “This legislation would guarantee that patients have access to the high-quality products and services they need to lead a more independent life,” said Crowley, chairman of the Democratic Caucus. “For those with disabilities and other medical conditions, these complex rehabilitation technology products are necessities.” Currently, Medicare classifies complex rehab products like specialized power wheelchairs and adaptive seating systems as DME, limiting access and choice for users. The bill, H.R. 750, would also help prevent fraud and abuse by requiring that a licensed physical or occupational therapist evaluate any patient seeking complex rehab products through Medicare. H.R. 1516, a previous bill to create a separate benefit for complex rehab, drew support from 172 co-sponsors. A similar bill in the Senate, S. 1013, drew support from 19 co-sponsors.

AAHomecare to Tricare: Reprocess claims

WASHINGTON – AAHomecare is calling on the contractors administering Tricare military health plans nationwide to reprocess claims for HME for the last six months of 2016. Congress directed Medicare to do just that in a provision included in the 21st Century Cures Act passed in December. “Congress recognized the need to provide relief for home medical equipment companies operating under drastic Medicare reimbursement cuts,” said Tom Ryan, president and CEO of AAHomecare. “It’s clear from current statutes and regulations that this relief is also applicable to the Tricare program.” AAHomecare argues that since Tricare reimbursement rates are pegged to Medicare reimbursement rates by law and by current network agreements, these plans are obligated to follow suit. The association has sent a letter to the three contractors administering the Tricare plans and the Department of Defense outlining its argument.

Ottobock draws PE interest

DUDERSTADT, Germany – Ottobock has attracted interest from private equity firms, including KKR and CVC, according to Reuters. The firms are looking for a 20% stake in the company core business of making artificial limbs. Ottobock is also drawing interest from buyout firms BC Partners and Advent. The company is targeting PE firms, affluent families and technology funds as potential buyers in a deal it hopes to complete by the end of June, ahead of a planned initial public offering, Reuters reported. Ottobock, which is being advised by J.P. Morgan, is currently valued at $3.2 billion. It’s currently a private company owned by the founder’s grandson, Hans Georg Naeder.

It’s official: Inspired by Drive launches

PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y. – Drive DeVilbiss Healthcare today announced the official launch of Inspired by Drive, a brand dedicated to manufacturing positioning and mobility products for the pediatric market. “Making a difference for families of children with special needs matters to us,” said Matt Lawrence, vice president and general manager of Inspired by Drive. “The grace, love and determination of special needs families gave birth to our company name and motivates the current and future vision of the Inspired by Drive Product line.” Inspired by Drive was formed when Drive combined Columbia Medical, Specialized Orthotic Services and Wenzelite Rehab.

Safeguard Services tapped for UPIC contract

CAMP HILL, Pa. – SafeGuard Services has been awarded the Unified Program Integrity Contractor (UPIC) for the Northeastern Jurisdiction. UPICs are new CMS contractors that will be replacing the functions of: Zone Program Integrity Contractor (ZPIC), Program Safeguard Contractor (PSC), and Medicaid Integrity Contractor (MIC). The Northeastern Jurisdiction consists of the following states: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington DC.  

RxWiki,TeleManager Technologies form new company

AUSTIN, Texas – RxWiki, a digital health company, has merged with TeleManager Technologies, a communication solutions company, to form Digital Pharmacist. Digital Health’s platform enables pharmacies and patients to communicate via phone, web or text to fill prescriptions, set reminder alerts, learn about their health conditions or ask the pharmacist questions. RxWiki in December signed a five-year renewal with the National Community Pharmacists Association to offer association members access to its services.

Arch Comfort finds new home in pharmacy

WILKES-BARRE, Pa.  – Arch Comfort, which specializes in therapeutic and corrective footwear, has moved inside Harrold’s Pharmacy, according to the local newspaper, The Times-Leader. The owners of Arch Comfort, both certified pedorthists, said the new location will give the company more visibility and allow it to accept more kids of insurances, the newspaper reported. Arch Comfort provides personalized fittings for braces and orthotics, a shoe lab for in-house modifications, a selection of name brand orthopedic footwear and other therapeutic products. Harrold’s Pharmacy encompasses a 22,000-square-foot facility, a former bakery that the company spent $3 million to $4 million renovating in 2013.

Essential Medical Supply taps ARI for website services

MILWAUKEE and ORLANDO, Fla. – ARI Network Services is now the preferred website provider of the more than 2,000 independent dealers of Essential Medical Supply, a manufacturer of in-home medical and health-related products. ARI will offer Essential Medical Supply dealers special package pricing and discounts on their websites. ARI’s websites give dealers easy access to Essential Medical Supply’s full library of pre-loaded product data, and industry specific functionality, including a prescription refill module and secure online bill pay. “The effects of competitive bidding have encouraged HME providers to explore new online profit centers, and this program offers providers the opportunity to optimize their online presence to ‘Sell More Stuff’ online and in-store,” said Patrick Miller, ARI’s HME business development director.

CCS Medical’s diabetes program earns DEAP accreditation

FARMERS BRANCH, Texas – CCS Medical’s diabetes education program CCS Connects has been named a Diabetes Education Accreditation Program by the American Association of Diabetes Educators. CCS Connects uses health risk assessments and smart devices to collect real-time data, and also uses wireless glucose technology and clinical monitoring. CDEs interact with members every three months to provide ongoing education and coaching focused on nutrition, product training, behavioral changes and goal setting. "If we can increase high-risk member awareness to their condition, diagnosis and self-management principles, we can reduce diabetes-related ER visits and hospitalizations, resulting in reduced healthcare costs," said Kristine Erdman, vice president of clinical services for CCS Medical. CCS Medical is a mail provider of diabetes supplies, insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors, and wound care, urology, ostomy and other supplies.

CRT conference registration opens

ARLINGTON, Va. – Registration is now open for this year’s National CRT Leadership and Advocacy Conference, slated for April 26–27 at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City. This year’s event has been condensed into two days; the conference fee is $199. A key focus of the event is pushing legislationto permanently delay CMS’s plan to apply competitive bidding-derived pricing to accessories for manual and power wheelchairs, and to create a separate benefit for complex rehab. NCART and NRRTS expect to have bills introduced by the event. For more information or to register: www.ncart.us or www.nrrts.org.

CFA hosts networking reception

LAS VEGAS – Medtrade Spring attendees will have the opportunity to attend a networking reception at the Environments for Aging Expo on Feb. 28, 5-7 p.m. EFA is co-co-locating with Medtrade Spring, which takes place Feb. 27-March 1 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. The networking event is $25. Register here.

People: Cure Medical taps Wells for exec position

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. – Lisa Wells has been named vice president of marketing at Cure Medical. Well has more than 20 years of experience in healthcare marketing, digital technology, product development and community relations, most recently as president of Get Social Consulting. She is also the founder of several social communities for wheelchair users, including Wheel:Life, which she sold to Comfort Medical in April 2016. Cure Medical is a manufacturer of intermittent catheters and closed catheter systems. It donates 10% of net profits to research.