HME accreditation exploded in 2009: 'Thousands added to the mix'

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

YARMOUTH, Maine – Unless something strange happens—like some new Congressional mandate—industry accrediting organizations can expect to never again see a year like 2009.

“It was a unique time for everybody,” said Tom Cesar, president of ACHC. “You had to rise to the occasion.”

You can say that again. An informal poll of accrediting agencies shows that, on average, those companies accredited twice as many HMEs in 2009 as in 2008. Credit that to the mandate that HMEs had to become accredited by Sept. 30, 2009 to continue doing business with Medicare. To meet that deadline, providers flocked to the accrediting organizations in numbers never before seen.

Accreditors sometimes toiled 15 and 20-hour days to meet the demand. They worked weekends and hired extra staff.

“The volume was huge,” said Sandra Canally, president of The Compliance Team. “Thousands were added to the mix.”

Once the deadline passed, it was like someone threw a switch. Business returned to the more normal flow of accrediting start-ups, processing renewals and working with HMEs who decide to switch their accreditation from one company to another.

“Now everybody has time to take a deep breath,” said Mary Nicholas, executive director of HQAA. “I really didn’t think we could continue to move at the speed of sound forever.”

In late 2008, CMS recommended that HME providers apply for accreditation with a deemed company by Jan. 31, 2009. For the most part, providers who met that recommended deadline were accredited in time to meet the Sept. 30 mandatory deadline, said accreditation officials.

Some providers, however, procrastinated and missed the boat. Others couldn’t meet the standards and gave up.

“I’m sure there are companies that folded because of this,” Cesar said. “I talked to one fellow near the end of September. He called and said, ‘I still haven’t done anything.’ I asked how much of his revenue depended on Medicare, and he said 60% to 70%. I said, ‘You are in trouble. You are in big trouble.’”