Researchers mine CMS data

Saturday, December 31, 2005

BRYAN, Texas - An economic consulting firm with an entrepreneurial bent has set its sights on helping the HME industry prove its belief that home care saves Medicare money.
"Once you present evidence of these things, they are difficult to counter," said economist Dr. Clifford Fry of RRC Inc. "You can have all kinds of opinions from experience, but nothing holds up like data analysis."
RRC performed a statistical analysis of Medicare power wheelchair data several years ago for the Scooter Store. That work convinced Fry and other RRC principles that the HME industry lacks the scientific data necessary to back up its claims regarding home care's cost effectiveness.
In its most recent research, RRC found that Medicare beneficiaries who use scooters and power wheelchairs break their hips much less frequently than beneficiaries with similar physical problems who don't, for whatever reason, have access to the equipment.
Through its analysis of Medicare data, RRC determined that beneficiaries with power mobility equipment averaged 3.25 hip breaks per 100 people. Beneficiaries in need of power mobility equipment averaged 14.87 hip breaks per 100 people. This difference accounts for some of the significant differences in Medicare hospitalization and physician expenses for the members of these groups, Fry said.
RRC reported at HME News' September Business Summit in Chicago that over a three-year period, purchasing a scooter or power wheelchair for a beneficiary can save Medicare as much as $8,760, with most of the savings occurring in the first year. Medicare saves the money by spending less on hospitalizations, physician services and home health expenditures, RRC reported.
Health costs related to a hip fracture range from $16,300 to $18,700 during the year following the injury, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Additionally, half of those with hip fractures cannot return to independent living environments. That further adds to Medicare's costs and to the suffering of the individuals involved, according to the CDC.
To validate its research, which the company paid for itself, RRC has submitted its methodology for analyzing Medicare data to a peer-review economic journal.
"The thing I think is so unique about what we are doing is employing advanced statistical techniques to investigate the relationship in this Medicare data that no one else has ever investigated to my knowledge," Fry said.
The firm plans to halt further HME research until "we see if we can get some funding," Fry said.