Providers list NCB as top concern, survey says

Sunday, May 31, 2009

MARTINEZ, Ga. - Independent HMEs consider competitive bidding a more pressing issue than repealing the 36-month oxygen cap, according to a new survey by the Committee to Save Independent HME Suppliers (CSI: HME).

The newly formed organization will use the survey results to prioritize their advocacy efforts on behalf of independent providers, said David Petsch, CSI:HME's managing director.

Of the 242 people who responded to the poll, 111 listed repealing national competitive bidding as most important; 102 listed repealing the 36-month oxygen cap; 14 listed eliminating Medicare's 9.5% reimbursement cut on complex rehab equipment; six indicated reforming oxygen by carving it out of DME and creating a stand-alone provider category; six said strengthening supplier site inspection requirements; and three indicated amending the surety body requirement so that it applies only to new applicants or providers with reported adverse action in the past 5-years.

If the 11-question survey holds any surprises, it's that a few more providers listed competitive bidding as a more pressing issue than eliminating the oxygen cap, said John Gallagher, The VGM Group's vice president of government relations.

That's because the oxygen cap has an immediate impact on providers across the country and was implemented Jan. 1, 2009.

"Probably the No. 1 issue for our members is the oxygen cap, because that has an impact on cash flow right now and competitive bidding won't be out until 2010," Gallagher said. "So I was kind of surprised by the result."

NAIMES President Wayne Stanfield said providers everywhere recognize the long-term danger that competitive bidding presents. Even if they are not in Round 1 or Round 2, NCB will put a lot of providers out of business, he said.

"We are treating the oxygen cap and competitive bidding as equals and will fight against them at the same rate," Stanfield said.

Here are some statistics and results from the survey:

--    242 companies responded, representing 567 locations and employing 7,784 employees.

--    Responses came from 42 states; the seven states with the largest responses were: Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

--    233 respondents supported H.R. 2373, legislation that would repeal the 36-month cap on oxygen payments.

--    76 supported a plan that would reform oxygen and move if from the DMEPOS benefit into a separate provider category; 49 did not support the plan; and 117 were undecided.

--    178 supported having a lobbyist specifically to represent the interests of independent HME providers.

 The survey will stay open until June 12, but CSI:HME officials do not expect the results to change significantly.

To take the survey, go to: