HMEs: We'll cut services

Saturday, December 31, 2005

YARMOUTH, Maine - If Medicare eliminates the cap rental option for DME, providers will look to cut back on services and, in some cases, quality, according to the December HME NewsPoll.
"Cheaper products and less service here I come," wrote in Joel Holland, president of Holland Medical Equipment in Nashville, Tenn.
While 40% of the 209 poll respondents said they would lay off staff, services would take the biggest hit with 70% of respondents saying they would have to cut maintenance and another 43% suggesting delivery would be changed or eliminated.
A small percentage, 7%, said they would sell the business and 11% said they would close branches.
Despite the losses to providers, however, it is the patients who many feel will face the greatest hardships if the capped rental option is eliminated for DME.
"The main impact will be on the reduction of services to beneficiaries," wrote in Kevin Hill, president and general manager of CPS Medical in Tyler, Texas. "Most will not maintain their owned equipment at the levels we currently provide."
Lack of maintenance and less personal contact with the patient will cost more in the long run, respondents said.
"The lack of repairs to DME equipment could easily turn into an E.R. visit or hospital stay that would cost Medicare far more than the maintenance fee," wrote Joey Tart, president of Family Medical Supply in Dunn, N.C.
Beneficiaries will also bear the brunt of cuts, if Medicare caps reimbursement for oxygen concentrators, according to the NewsPoll. The OIG plans to conduct a study in 2006 that examines, among other things, the feasibility of capping reimbursement for oxygen concentrators (See HME News, 12/05).
"Liquid oxygen for Medicare beneficiaries would cease to exist," wrote Greg Melloh, a manager at Iowa Health Home Care in Des Moines, Iowa. "Deliveries would stop. All repairs would be taken non-assigned, meaning that they pay up front. Those not in a position to do this would certainly be in trouble."
Nearly three quarters of respondents predicted they would drop respiratory therapist visits, if oxygen were capped. Additionally, 64% would cut delivery and 62% would cut maintenance.
But beneficiaries wouldn't be the only ones suffering, respondents said. "Capping respiratory services would be catastrophic for all providers," wrote in Tim Pederson, CEO of WestMed Rehab in Rapid City, S.D.