Thursday, March 25, 2010

SAINT PAUL, Minn. - After getting burned with 14% in Medicaid reimbursement cuts last year, HME providers in Minnesota have hired a lobbyist.

"I think, up until this point, we've been a reactive industry and we can't afford to be that way anymore," said Al Neumann, owner of Corner Medical in Bloomington, Minn., and a board member of the Midwest Association for Medical Equipment Services (MAMES). "If we want to stick around, we have to be proactive."

In 2009, Medicaid mimicked Medicare and implemented a 9.5% reimbursement cut for HME. That was followed by a 3% cut, then another 1.5% cut.

That last cut came as a surprise--something providers hope won't happen again, now that they have William Amberg of Ewald Consulting working on their behalf.

"We didn't find out about it until after the fact," said Rose Schafhauser, executive director of MAMES. "It wasn't its own line item. It was under something else that we wouldn't consider DME."

Protecting what's left of Medicaid reimbursement is serious business: After last year's cuts, providers are asking themselves whether they can still afford to service Medicaid patients.

"We'll take them, but we don't market to them," Neumann said. "There are already stories of providers getting calls from the state because patients can't find anyone to service them, especially in rural areas."

To cover the expenses of having a lobbyist--about $1,125 per month--MAMES is asking providers for donations of $500 or more.

Schafhauser suspects that providers in more and more states will go this route.

"It used to be that issues would only pop up here and there, but as of late, we're getting attacked in every single state," she said. "We have to make sure we have someone keep one eye open, because providers don't have the time to do that."