Industry meets CMS acting administrator

Sunday, October 28, 2007

WASHINGTON - Representatives from the home medical equipment industry had a "positive meeting" with Kerry Weems, CMS's acting administrator, last week.

"We didn't expect any major policy decisions to come out of it, but we wanted to raise his awareness," said Alan Landauer, chairman of both AAHomecare and Landauer Metropolitan in Mount Vernon, N.Y. "Now he knows the cast of characters, and he knows our positions on certain issues aren't that far apart."

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., helped to secure the hour-long meeting with Weems. On the agenda: issues concerning fraud and abuse; national competitive bidding and mandatory accreditation; power mobility devices (PMDs); and home oxygen therapy. The industry was prepared with a list of recommendations.

The industry appeared to make the most headway with PMDs, a subject Weems was "well versed in," participants said, due to his experiences watching someone close to him with ALS going through the process of getting a complex wheelchair.

"He's willing to relook at including complex rehab in competitive bidding," said Seth Johnson, vice chairman of AAHomecare's Rehab and Assistive Technology Council (RATC) and vice president of government affairs for Pride Mobility Products. "We provided him with a pretty strong case verbally, but he wants to see it in writing."

Part of that case: CMS has already implemented a 27% cut, on average, for PMDs. That, along with more stringent documentation requirements, has resulted in a 30% reduction in utilization.

Weems also indicated that he wants to hear more about the industry's recommendation that CMS clarify the documentation requirements for PMDs.

On fraud, Weems recognized that "the vast majority of people in our industry aren't professional racketeers and thieves," Landauer said. Weems seemed open to having staff members shadow providers to see how the program works in the real world, participants said.

On accreditation, however, Weems toed the company line.

"There was a lot of give and take at the meeting, but CMS's continual reluctance to move forward with mandatory accreditation is very frustrating," said Eric Sokol, director of the Power Mobility Coalition. "(Weems) said CMS can't be too nimble, but when they want to make a payment change, they make it happen. Mandatory accreditation just seems to sit out there."

The industry also recommended to Weems that CMS make the quality standards more stringent and examine more closely the service-related components of providing home oxygen.

At the meeting: Landauer; Johnson; Sokol; Tyler Wilson, president and CEO of AAHomecare; provider Georgie Blackburn; Don Clayback, who heads up The MED Group's National Rehab Network; and provider Don Bates.