'It could have been worse'

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

OLYMPIA, Wash.--Starting Aug. 1, Washington state Medicaid will no longer pay for bath safety equipment and compression stockings, and it will reduce the amount of incontinence supplies it pays for from 240 diapers per month to 200.

Tom Coogan, immediate past president of the Pacific Association for Medical Equipment Services (PAMES), acknowledges that the cuts will sting, but they help to protect more vulnerable product categories like complex power wheelchairs.

“Although we’re discouraged, we’re relieved, because it could have been extremely worse,” said Coogan, director of industry affairs and managed care agreements for Portland, Ore.-based Care Medical & Rehab Equipment, which has numerous locations in Washington state.

Initially, the state was looking at a 10% to 20% across-the-board cut to durable medical equipment.

But there’s no relief for the weary, at least not for providers of incontinence supplies: The state now has its eye on moving to a single-source provider for the product category.

“We’re sympathetic,” said Michael Iott, president of PAMES and general manager for Farrell’s Home Health in Bremerton, Wash. “They have a $9 billion shortfall; they want to cut about $15 million from DME. But a single-source provider for incontinence supplies? PAMES plans to present them with an alternative.”

Previous attempts by the state to move to a single-source provider for incontinence supplies have failed.