2010: A year of bad policy, big deals and, oh yeah, competitive bidding

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01/11/2011

One of the most challenging aspects of writing about specialty providers is that it encompasses a variety of different markets. Need proof? Just look at the five most read specialty stories from www.hmenews.com for 2010:
* "Medicare ups ante for CPAP" (5,570 views)
* "CPAP providers enter 'brave new world'" (1,172)
* "Big deal: Infusion company sold for $343 million" (1,140)
* "Competitive bidding and mail order diabetes: Race to bottom?" (990)
* "Proposed diabetes changes leave sour taste" (976)
It's no surprise that the top story, which also cracked the top 20 overall for the year, dealt with Medicare and its increasingly onerous compliance and documentation requirements for patients, physicians and especially CPAP providers. The second story was about more of the same, from the manufacturer's point of view. I talk regularly to CPAP providers and they all say the same thing: It's good medicine, bad policy.
Switching gears, the next story showcases the sale in January 2010 of Bob Cucuel's Critical Homecare Solutions to specialty pharmacy organization BioScrip. Free of competitive bidding, home infusion continues to be an attractive market for buyers. While Cucuel hasn't announced his next venture, we predict he'll continue to have the Midas touch.
Finally, the last two stories deal with the diabetes market. Like providers across all segments of the industry, diabetes providers worry that Medicare's competitive bidding program will drive down patient care and product quality. This took on particular significance when bidders in this category slashed their own payment rates by an average of 56%.
With CMS continuing its quest for a national bid in the mail-order diabetes category, stakeholders are urging lawmakers to tread carefully.
The other diabetes story detailed a proposal, that, among other things, would have sharply limited the number of times a beneficiary could test per day, based on a one-size fits all model. Fortunately, after hearing from a variety of healthcare stakeholders, Medicare dropped the idea.
Some stories really do have happy endings.
Theresa Flaherty

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