Industry alliance focuses on issues

Monday, July 31, 2006

VIENNA, Va. - Nine HME manufacturers have joined forces and formed the Sleep Manufacturers Alliance to lobby on reimbursement and other issues related to sleep disordered breathing.
"You can't predict the future, but you can read tea leaves and see that it is not going to get better, and the cuts are going to continue unless we come together with one voice," said Ron Richard, senior vice president of market development for ResMed.
The alliance held its first meeting in San Diego on May 23. Member companies include Embla (formerly MedCare), Fisher & Paykel, Invacare, Pro-Tech, Puritan Bennett, ResMed, Respironics, Sunrise Medical and Viasys.
Going forward, the alliance plans to work with physician groups to help fund and collaborate on clinical studies related to sleep disordered breathing. The goal: Raise the bar for treating sleep disorders and create benchmarks and standards for good patient care.
"All this leads to improved outcomes, and that is what payers look at," Richard said. "If we all tackled this independently, we'd come up with nine different studies of 10 or 20 patients each. We want to put our money into physician organizations that can fund meaningful studies that include hundreds of patients."
If payers don't see the value of technology and treatment for sleep disordered breathing, they will continue to cut reimbursement, say Richard and others. If that happens, manufacturers might have to cut back on R&D and be forced to make products "for the lowest common denominator," just basic CPAPs and masks.
One of the alliance's first efforts will be to convince CMS that treatment for sleep disordered breathing should not be part of national competitive bidding.
"CPAP is not like a wheelchair or walker," said Ann MacGregor, Invacare's vice president of sleep. "You are breathing something invasively and the ramifications with the co-morbidities are so strong."
Alliance members have not ruled out inviting providers to join at some point. But for now, MacGregor said, members want to focus exclusively on day-to-day issues that manufactures grapple with, such as reimbursement, patient care, FDA requirements and equipment standards.