A closer look at the HME NewsPoll

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Kevin Robison and Daryl Bowman agree with the 82% of respondents to the February HME NewsPoll that indicated they plan to increase their use of advance beneficiary notices (ABNs) in 2010.

Both providers have used ABNs for some time, but they're on the lookout for ways to use the forms in new ways, particularly to offer Medicare beneficiaries equipment upgrades.

"We all have personal preferences, whether it's color or trim," said Kevin Robison, a DME specialist at Knueppel HealthCare Services in West Allis, Wis. "While most insurances don't take that into consideration, for a moderate cost, patients can still get what they want. That way they don't feel like they're being pigeonholed."

Providers are required to use ABNs to alert beneficiaries that Medicare may not cover certain products or services and that they may be left holding the bill.

Bowman, owner of Bowman Medical in San Carlos, Calif., recently started offering Invacare's Solace Therapy Mattress as an upgrade.

"I just started buying bed packages with those mattresses in anticipation of renting the beds and offering the mattresses as an upgrade or selling them for cash," he said.

Most often, providers use ABNs for rollators--upgrades can carry a price tag as low as $30 and as high as $200--and full electric beds.

"We probably upgrade 80% to 90% of our rollators and 20% of our beds," Bowman said. "Usually, it's a pretty reasonable expense."

Robison said: "I think for just about anything--there are upgrades we can offer."

While more beneficiaries may be holding on to their money due to the slump in the economy, most are still willing to open up their wallets.

"There's always going to be a market out there for this," Robison said. "If they want it, they're going to buy it--to heck with insurance. And if that's the way they feel, there are plenty of products out there that we can offer them."