NCB: What's the last card to play in the industry's fight?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

TIFTON, Ga. - Provider Tyler Riddle wants you to join him in enlisting Medicare beneficiaries in the fight against competitive bidding.

Riddle, vice president of operations for MRS Homecare, distributes a "warning flyer" to beneficiaries that tells them how competitive bidding will take away their choice of provider, reduce the services they receive and cost thousands of jobs. It also urges them to visit a website that he created:

"Whether you have one location or 1,000 locations, you can put this in the hands of your patients," Riddle said. "You have to put a delivery ticket out; you have to get a work order signed. Why not hand them a piece of paper and help them protect their health care? What's one more piece of paperwork?"

The website educates beneficiaries on competitive bidding and gives them tools, like a Congressional directory and talking points, to contact lawmakers. It also includes links to the websites of AAHomecare, The VGM Group and others.

Provider Todd Tyson has answered Riddle's call to action. Tyson, president of Hi Tech Homecare in Marietta, Ga., downloaded the warning flyer from and distributed 3,800 copies to patients in September.

"We sent them out with invoices and put them in new patient packets," he said. "We set up about 1,000 patients per month and about half of those are Medicare beneficiaries, so we've done quite a few."

HME associations in states like Georgia and Alabama have also spread the word of to their members.

"I like to let our members know when someone is out there rocking and rolling," said Teresa Tatum, executive director of the Georgia Association of Medical Equipment Services. "I encouraged our members to take a look at it because I think it's unique, especially the warning flyer, which takes things a step further. Plus, it's not backed by big bucks; it's just a provider."

Involving beneficiaries in a fight such as this one can be tricky, but with competitive bidding there's too much at stake not to get them involved, says Michael Hamilton, executive director of the Alabama Durable Medical Equipment Association.

"You don't want to unnecessarily frighten people, but this is pretty clear cut," he said. "It's not too hard to get this one straight."

Tyson agreed that the industry has reached a breaking point and that one of the last cards it can play in the fight against competitive bidding is raising awareness among beneficiaries.

"They don't have a clue this is coming," he said. "We've done everything we can to protect them from this, but now we have to start engaging them in this fight. We need to raise the volume."

Hopefully, it's not a day late and a dollar short, Riddle says.

"My father started this business when he was 18 years old," he said. "Now the industry is on the verge of literally collapsing after two generations."