Industry adds two cents to reform efforts

Saturday, January 31, 2009

The HME industry answered the Obama administration’s call for community healthcare discussions by hosting a series of public forums recently.

Participants discussed concerns with the current healthcare system, including the high cost of providing health insurance to employees, and compiled comments to send to Obama’s transition team.

“Employers are not going to be able to continue carrying these kinds of coverages,” said Laurie King, president of Duluth, Minn.-based Lake Superior Medical Equipment, which hosted a forum for consumers and providers in December. “The working poor are the ones who are really in a bind.”

Additionally, the forums focused on the HME industry’s role in future reform efforts. One key message:

“The value of HME is underestimated by the current healthcare system.”

“Home care should be a core part of any healthcare reform rather than an ancillary piece,” said Tilly Gambill, manager of marketing and communications for AAHomecare, which co-hosted a forum in Alpharetta, Ga. with Nielsen Business Media in December. “It’s very important that providers have a voice in the process.”

The resurgence of national competitive bidding was of major concern for the 17 people, mostly providers, who attended the forum, Gambill said. Reducing the number of HMEs providing care will negatively impact patient care and, over time, reduce innovations and investments, providers said.

During a forum in South Boston, Va., hosted by the National Association of Independent Medical Equipment Suppliers (NAIMES), providers, hospital staff and consumers spoke of the importance of planning at the frond end.

“Mandating the use of preventive care would substantially reduce long-term costs,” said Wayne Stanfield, president and CEO.

At the NAIMES forum, providers also discussed the disconnect between CMS and providers. CMS, for example, has not recognized that there are problems with the 36-month oxygen cap, providers said.

“Providers don’t know what’s going to happen,” Stanfield said. “One provider said, ‘I can’t even go out of business.’”