Do lower reimbursements equal lower-quality HME?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

YARMOUTH, Maine - Providers around the country report an increasing amount of lower-quality HME on the market.

"We've seen a major decline in quality," said Aaron Lauver, president of Milton, Pa.-based Susquehanna Valley Mobility Services.

The products that providers are having the most trouble with: mobility equipment.

Providers blame lower reimbursement, not necessarily manufacturers, for lower-quality HME. 

"Manufacturers had to get their prices down so they could fabricate equipment that can be sold into the current reimbursement environment," Lauver said. 

Provider Fred Jackson has also noticed that some HME, particularly crutches and canes, just doesn't hold up like it used to.

"Crutches and canes are what people put a lot of weight on," said Jackson, president of Salida Medical in Salida, Colo. "They have little push buttons to adjust them, and if the drilling is not accurate or the pins are not popped out correctly, they're going to fall."

As a result, providers are being more diligent about checking equipment before they furnish it to patients, they say. Provider Michelle Jackson recently threw away an order of patient lifts.

"The quality was not there," said Jackson, president and CEO of Frontier Access & Mobility in Cheyenne, Wyo.

Not all providers are finding today's equipment to be lower quality, however.

"As far as wheelchairs breaking down, it really seems to have more to do with how active the user is," said Rick Perrotta, president of Charlotte, N.C.-based Network Medical Supply.