Providers fear 16% cut, loss of incontinence biz

Saturday, May 31, 2008

AUGUSTA, Maine--Only after the state’s budget had been signed, sealed and delivered did providers learn recently of a 16% cut to home medical equipment that goes into effect July 1.

“The way this whole thing came down from the state--it was such short notice that we didn’t, as an industry, have time to lobby and make a change,” said Amy Kelly, vice president and owner of Prime Care Medical Supplies in Wells. “We weren’t even asked to be part of a focus group. I feel that’s extremely unfair.”

Along with the cut, providers say, the state wants to eliminate coverage for bathroom safety equipment, non-custom foot orthotics and seasonal disorder lights, and to limit coverage for CPAPs, nebulizers and standard wheelchairs used in nursing homes. Additionally, the state has its eye on making vents rental items.

As if that weren’t enough, providers also learned recently that the state wants to use an out-of-state distributor as its one-stop shop for incontinence supplies, pushing out local providers.

“If incontinence is taken away from us, how are we supposed to stick around to supply the other stuff the community needs?” said Jim Greatorex, the Maine chair for the New England Medical Equipment Dealers and president of Black Bear Medical in Portland. “They’re talking about further weakening an already struggling network of providers.”

Providers plan to voice their concerns about the 16% cut and single-source providers to state officials and legislators.

“Incontinence is about more than just taking calls to refill supplies,” Greatorex said. “We set these people up. We give them samples. We’re here when they unexpectedly run out of supplies and they need them in a hurry. That’s not the case with an out-of-state provider.”