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New year could have shaky start

New year could have shaky start Challenges will linger, but regulatory changes and technology create potential

YARMOUTH, Maine – The opportunities for HME providers in 2022 in a lot of ways hinge on the progress they make on the challenges in 2021, respondents to a recent HME Newspoll say. 

That’s because one of the biggest challenges in 2021 – supply chain constraints, and the corresponding increase in pricing and surcharges – is expected to continue into 2022. 

“The only thing that we are hoping for in 2022 is the easing of the supply chain issues and the return of more sustainable product pricing and access,” wrote one respondent. 

Challenges ‘peak’ in 2021 

The increase in pricing and surcharges due to supply chain constraints have exacerbated an already shaky reimbursement structure for HME that relies on pricing set years ago through Medicare’s competitive bidding program. 

“Reimbursement issues came to a peak in 2021,” wrote one respondent in response to the question, “What was the most challenging aspect of HME in 2021?” “We are one of the few industries that have uncontrollably increasing costs and have no ability to increase the amount we charge for our products and services. This is resulting in an unsustainable industry.” 

In addition to supply chain constraints, respondents pointed to labor shortages as a big challenge in 2021 and as another aspect of doing business that has exacerbated inadequate reimbursement. 

“The most challenging aspect of any business right now is staffing,” wrote Josh Turner of McAbee Medical in Alabama. “It seems like as soon as we’re fully staffed, someone else turns in their notice. We’ve raised wages. We’ve increased benefits. It is hard to pay a competitive wage when fast food places hire at $14 an hour to serve chicken, and we’re asking them to help save people’s lives but can’t pay much more than that because our income is locked in.” 

Other respondents point to increasing competitive pressure from larger players from outside of the industry as a big challenge. 

“The challenge is Amazon,” wrote one respondent. “We find that face-to-face we can educate the clients, but they turn around and buy our suggestions direct from Amazon. We have learned from this and now handle things differently, but it is still challenging.” 

Collaboration and consolidation in 2022 

Respondents say there were a number of developments in 2021, however, that will create potential for HME providers in 2022, including the elimination of the CMN for home oxygen therapy, the acceleration of e-prescribing and the increasing attention on the role they play in the care continuum. 

“Collaboration with other DMEs to drive the value for HME and the associated reimbursement,” wrote John Quinlan of Quinlan Medical in New York in response to the question, “What holds the most potential for HME in 2022?” 

Respondents also point to consolidation as an area of potential in 2022. 

“The most potential comes from M&A opportunities in consolidation of market share, since providers cannot keep up to rising product costs and product shortages,” wrote Kevin Lawhorn of Pure Vita in Idaho. 

Additionally, a number of respondents pointed to a strong economy and favorable demographics helping to increase the potential of retail, specifically, in 2022. 

“In our market, we have loads of untapped retail potential,” Turner wrote. “Our retail sales have grown exponentially over the past two years, and the growth isn’t slowing down.”


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