In brief: Senators step up, Pride beefs up and more

Sunday, March 2, 2008

WASHINGTON - Sens. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., and Pat Roberts, R-Kan., are urging the Senate Budget Committee to "reject additional funding reductions" to home oxygen therapy, AAHomecare reported last week.

Lincoln and Roberts have distributed a "dear Colleague" letter to senators, asking them for their support. They plan to give the signed letter to Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., who chairs the committee, and Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., a ranking member.

The letter states: ""Since 1998, the home oxygen payment system has been subjected to repeated changes and cuts. The most significant of those cuts will be realized in the next 10 months, when payment reductions of nearly 20 percent will take effect through the implementation of the new competitive bidding rules and the imposition of a cap on Medicare payments after 36 months. We ask the committee to weigh the cumulative effect of these cuts and reject assumptions of additional funding reductions."

To read the letter, visit

Pride adds to government relations team
EXETER, Pa. -- Pride Mobility Products ramped up its government affairs efforts last week when it hired Julie Piriano, an ATP-certified physical therapist, as director of rehab industry affairs, focusing largely on complex rehab issues.

Piriano sits on the RESNA Professional Standards Board and is a friend of NRRTS. She also belongs to the American Physical Therapy Association and the Illinois Association of Medical Equipment Suppliers, where she serves on their executive board. Most recently, Piriano worked as the rehab/MCO manager for Apria Healthcare

In other news, Pride conducted an extensive grassroots campaign last month aimed at preserving Medicare's first-month purchase option for power wheelchairs, which the president's 2009 draft budget proposes to eliminate.

During the two-week campaign, Pride's sales force contacted providers nationwide and encouraged them to contact their representatives and senators and ask them to support the first-month purchase option. The effort generated 640 calls to Capitol Hill, the company reported last week.

"We really need everyone participating in this," said Seth Johnson, Pride's vice president of government affairs. "Pride is having meetings (on Capitol Hill), but we need to expand the effort and get as many constituents calling in who have the power of the voting booth. They can articulate their concerns and convince their legislators to send a letter or voice their concerns with that policy."

RACs rack up refunds
BALTIMORE - CMS has recovered $371.5 million in improper Medicare payments as part of its recovery audit contractor (RAC) demo program, the agency announced last week.

The project rolled out in California, Florida and New York in 2005 to find and correct improper payments made to fee-for-service providers. In 2007, it was expanded to include Massachusetts, South Carolina and Arizona.

The RACs found that 96% of payment errors were overpayments and 4% were underpayments.

Since the program began, it has collected nearly $440 million and the error rate has decreased from 14.2% in 1996 to 3.9% in 2007.

Rotech hangs by a thread
ORLANDO - The NASDAQ hasn't given up on Rotech Healthcare--yet.

On Feb. 21, the NASDAQ approved Rotech's application to transfer from the stock market's Global Market to Capital Market listing, according to a Feb. 25 Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing. The provider began listing on the Capital Market, under the same symbol (ROHI), Feb. 27. The Capital Market has less restrictive listing requirements, including a $1 minimum bid price requirement.

On Friday, Rotech's stock was trading at 50 cents per share.

CMS: Healthcare spending will reach $4.3 trillion by 2017
WASHINGTON - U.S. healthcare spending will grow 6.7% in 2007, according to a report released by CMS last week. The agency expects average annual growth to remain near that rate through 2017.

Over the full projection period (2007-2017), CMS expects annual growth to be higher than annual growth in both the overall economy (4.9%) and general inflations (2.4%).

As a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP), CMS expects healthcare spending to increase 16.3% in 2007 compared to 16% in 2006. By 2017, the agency expects spending to reach just over $4.3 trillion and comprise 19.5% of GDP.

To view the report, visit

Sepracor blames CMS for quarterly loss
MARLBOROUGH, Mass. - Sepracor reported last week revenues of $340 million for the fourth quarter of 2007 compared to $353.3 million for the same quarter in 2006. Revenues for 2007 were $1.23 billion, a 3.6% increase over 2006.

Sepracor blamed its fourth quarter loss on CMS's decision last year to institute a bundled payment amount for Xopenex and generic albuterol inhalation medications.