Keep calling us—under one condition

Thursday, July 22, 2010

As we scrambled wildly to keep up with the news leading up to the printing of this issue, I couldn’t help but think: If we’re this strung out, as mere third-party observers and reporters, what’s it like to be an actual HME provider right now?

Based on the number of e-mails and phone calls we received in June and July about competitive bidding, audits, PECOS and what feels like constant threats of cuts from Medicaid, not fun.

We received so many e-mails and phone calls, in fact, that Managing Editor Theresa Flaherty suggested, only half-jokingly, that we set up a 1-800 help line for providers to call and leave messages, and then play the audio from those messages on our website.

Don’t get me wrong: We like it when providers e-mail and call us. A story we wrote about AAHomecare creating a task force on the “tidal wave” of audits spurred provider Richard Lamb to e-mail us (resulting in a Q&A about a ZPIC audit that has forced him to close his doors), which, in turn, spurred provider Jeff Brast to e-mail us (resulting in a letter to the editor about how he, too, was “digging out of the havoc this has caused”). We pride ourselves on being the pulse of the industry and that’s just not possible without communication like this.

And frankly, with this perfect storm of regulatory activity putting or threatening to put thousands of providers out of business, who could blame them for being so up in arms? Take Jim Fallon. Like Lamb, he’s not exactly optimistic about his future, thanks to competitive bidding and its 32% reimbursement cut, on average. He wrote: “In the end, the patients are the ones who are going to suffer. For me, all I will lose is my life savings and my house that I used to acquire MediRest in January 2007.”

But in addition to e-mailing and calling us, there is one thing I’d like providers to do: When appropriate, call AAHomecare, call their state or regional HME association, and call their congressmen or senators. If it’s an e-mail, just CC one or all of these parties.

That’s what Jan Soderquist did when the Medicaid program in New Hampshire moved to a cost-plus 10% instead of a cost-plus 30% method of paying for certain HME. In addition to e-mailing us, she got NEMED involved and she e-mailed, called and visited her state legislators. In June, she prevailed.

In an e-mail shortly after she found out that the state would reverse the cut, Soderquist e-mailed me: “I’m so happy I could cry.”

See, sometimes there are happy endings.