Two acts of shame

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

If we threw darts from our pulpit here at HME News, we'd have no trouble finding targets this month.
First up on this list are the New Jersey suppliers who organized a conference call to explore the possibility of legislative or legal challenges to competitive bidding. Funny, but I thought the industry already funded an organization to do this. Remember AAHomecare.
Well, the session that was supposed to explore these alternatives turned into a rap session on AAHomecare's failures vis-a-vis competitive bidding. We can't lend our voice to that gripe. We've irked AAHomecare our fair share in the past, but on the issue of competitive bidding, it's hard to believe the industry could be any better served than it has been to date...
Unless, of course, more HME suppliers called on more members of Congress and turned the tide against the MMA. That didn't happen. Last year, in the midst of the most critical period in this industry's 40-year host, just two companies from New Jersey sent representatives to the AAHomecare Legislative conference. Two. Compare that to Air Products, a single company that dispatched 24 representatives to Washington.
This kind of behavior's for the birds. First, you stick your head in the sand like an ostrich while the winds of changing are blowing hard. Then, after the dust has settled, you turn into a chicken and start running around with your head cut off.
If you were disgruntled and whining in Idaho (isn't that where the militias are strongest?), I could maybe understand better. Afterall, trudging from Idaho to Washington is expensive and time-consuming. But New Jersey? Those guys drive to DC.
Next up for the dart, I don't know whether to aim for Palmetto GBA or CMS. Maybe both. Start with Palmetto. Over a four month period last year, Palmetto processed payments totaling $122 million for 21,000 artificial arms and legs, not for all of a Region, but for people who live in Miami-Dade. That's one city, one county, four months and 21,000 people who need a replacement leg or arm. You must be pulling my leg. And if it comes off when you do, I know just how to get paid for a new one.
We ran a news brief on this one (see page 44). The Miami Herald ran a full- fledged story on this May 10. Either way, we've all just caught Palmetto GBA with its pants down. Again. Remember the Houston power wheelchair scandal? The hundreds of millions of squandered dollars? How it was never supposed to happen again.
Well it looks like it just has. Palmetto's defenders point out that the government's paltry payments cannot fund adequate crime-fighting measures. That may be true. The government is parsimonious when it comes to fighting fraud, and maybe we have ourselves to thank. Read our lips: no new taxes.
But Jeepers. After Wheeler Dealer, you'd think Palmetto might have tweaked their software in such a way that you could detect a proverbial dam break of artificial arms and legs. We're not talking a single finger in a bowl of Wendy's chili. But 21,000 arms and legs. I can barely add numbers in an Excel column, and I failed Fortran computer programming, but I can imagine a system in which flags start flying if payments double from one month to the next.
All those Wheeler Dealer measures cracked down on fraudulent suppliers. Why can't we expect some preventative measures that keep the crooks from bleeding the system?