HMEs torn over charging seniors more for Medicare

Friday, June 30, 2006

YARMOUTH, Maine - A small majority of providers believe that, as a way to stem Medicare reimbursement cuts for durable medical equipment, beneficiaries should pay more. Few HMEs, however, like the thought of that.
According to the June HME NewsPoll, 54% of 240 respondents agreed that requiring seniors to pay more would reduce DME reimbursement cuts. But with most seniors on fixed incomes, boosting their co-pays or requiring them to buy additional secondary insurance appear unlikely solutions, providers said.
Brenda Lanning, a customer service rep at Wichita Medical Supply in Wichita Falls, Texas, summed it up:
"I don't know of anyone in the HME business that wants our seniors to pay more, but I believe if they do not have to eventually, Medicare is going to continue to reduce reimbursement," said Lanning.
Seniors have paid their dues, said others, who offered up opinions on government waste and other entitlement programs as the reason behind ongoing DME cuts.
Many suggested a "means test" as a way to pass costs on to those who could afford them while sparing less well-off seniors. Overall, providers expressed sympathy for seniors on fixed incomes.
"I would never want to put a patient where they have to choose between oxygen and food," said Lee Guay of Apex of St. Peters in Helena, Mont.
Even if seniors were required to chip in more, providers said, there's no guarantee they'd pay.
"We already have a hard enough time collecting deductibles and co-insurance from patients," said Regina Marcellus, billing manager at Heron Home Health in Drexel Hill, Pa. "They all seem to have the impression that Medicare pays at 100%."
Added another: "They ignore the invoices you send and feel they should not have to pay."
Fifty-four percent of poll respondents said they currently use advanced beneficiary notices for product upgrades; three-quarters said they plan to increase their use of ABNs in the future.