Thursday, March 25, 2010

TOPEKA, Kan. - It looks like HME providers here are stuck with a 10% across-the-board cut to Medicaid reimbursement this year, so stakeholders have turned their attention to next year.

"This year may be too late," said Rose Schafhauser, executive director of the Midwest Association for Medical Equipment Services (MAMES). "We are trying to make sure (more cuts) are not included for 2011."

HME providers had rallied to stave off the cut--announced in December and implemented Jan. 1--contacting lawmakers and media outlets, and reaching out to organizations that work with affected populations.

Beneficiaries may find they no longer have access to needed services, warned Schafhauser.

"For the first time, we have members that are saying 'No, we can't do it anymore,'" she said. "Typically, people are afraid to turn clients away."

That's especially true for complex rehab providers, said provider Gerald Sloan.

"We submitted several letters to Medicaid (from providers) stating they would no longer provide complex rehab to Medicaid beneficiaries," said Sloan, CEO of Lenexa-based Progressive Medical Equipment and a MAMES board member.

That may be just what the industry needs, he said.

"I think this is a good warning to every provider out there that there  is a point where we have to decide, 'Can we afford to do this business?'" said Sloan. "We got to that line in Kansas. Now, we have a more unified voice."

Members of a MAMES task force met with lawmakers in February to discuss creating a DME sub-committee--an idea that hasn't gained traction in the past.

"They are now somewhat open to that idea," said Schafhauser. "We can sit down at the table with Medicaid on DME issues and also work with providers on ideas to save money."