Angry Man tees off on The Scooter Store and HME News

 - 
12/04/2009

Every now and then, some really irate person calls, emails or writes HME News and goes ballistic. To tell you the truth, I like hearing from Angry Man or Angry Woman because it usually indicates that we’ve struck a nerve. In this business, that’s always fun, provided you’ve reported a factual, unbiased story, expressed an honest opinion or supplied important information.

That happened earlier this week, when Angry Man emailed me to complain about an interview we ran on HME News TV with Scooter Store CEO Doug Harrison.

Here’s how the email exchange went:

Angry man: Why in the #%#$@&%! would you publicize the Scooter Store on your TV site??? Everywhere I travel, I find HME’s are frustrated because they lose scooter sales daily when customers complain, “If you won’t bill Medicare we can just go to the Scooter Store to buy one.” Why Medicare has never shut down their operation is beyond me.  The legitimate HME’s suffer while Medicare is billed for scooters for ambulatory consumers…What is wrong with this picture?!?

My response: We interview people. That’s what we do.

Angry Man: Maybe interview legit HME’s who are struggling to compete against the fraud you are supporting.

I understand where this anger comes from. Let's face it: The Scooter Store is a lightening rod. Many smaller independent HME providers feel the behemoth’s TV advertising has helped spike power wheelchair utilization and brought the wrath of CMS pouring down on the entire industry in the form of reimbursement cuts and regulatory burdens.

But as for claiming that The Scooter Store engages in fraudulent activity, well, I  have no knowledge of that. If The Scooter Store is breaking any rules, that’s up to CMS and other officials to determine—not me or Angry Man.

For the record, our HME News TV interview with Doug Harrison has been viewed nearly 1,000 times, making it by far our most popular video.

Not surprisingly, there’s more than a little interest in what the CEO of the industry’s largest power wheelchair provider has to say.

I guess that’s why I thought it was a good #%#$@&% idea to run it.

— Mike Moran

Comments

Nice way to end the story, Mike! ;) I happened to be one of those viewers. Must admit though, Angry Man's thought about spotlighting a smaller DME company did go through my mind as well. I happen to believe that growth and knowledge is everywhere, when we shut ourselves off from a successful company's story or ideas, we do ourselves a disservice. We have a lot to learn from eachother. We have a lot to disregard from eachother also...the key is being open to hearing all perspectives, imho.

I agree and enjoyed your reply, however there is some history to support Angry Man's fustration. Granted Scooter Store's issues were a couple years ago, however you don't usually pay multi-million dollar fines if you have done absolutly nothing wrong or misleading.

Scooter Store Gets Caught Scooting Medicare
by Nolan and Auerbach on May 25, 2007

In order to settle allegations that the Scooter Store submitted false claims to Medicare, the New Braunfels, Texas company agreed to pay the federal government $4 million and forego another $13 million in Medicare payments. The payments resolve several lawsuits including a whistleblower complaint from a former Scooter Store employee. The whistleblower will receive $3.2 million from the government. According to the Department of Justice, “The Scooter Store engaged in a multimedia advertising campaign to entice beneficiaries to obtain power scooters paid for by Medicare, Medicaid, and other insurers…Instead of the ‘zippy’ power scooters that were advertised, the Scooter Store sold the beneficiaries expensive power wheelchairs that they did not want, need, and/or could not use.” ”This settlement is part of our ongoing commitment to fighting abuse of Medicare’s durable medical equipment benefit,” said Assistant Attorney General Peter D. Keisler.

Thanks for the response Mike. That was pretty *&^%$#@ funny :-)
In response to CB - You obviously don't understand much about litigation and the legal costs involved. Big companies all over the USA settle lawsuits everyday even when they have done nothing wrong. The cost of litigation has to be weighed against the probability of success. Ask your attorney or someone else with a clue. The Scooter Store sued HHS, HHS counter sued The Scooter Store. After winning payments for over $25 million of the denied claims we were pursuing, The Scooter Store agreed to give CMS $3.5 million to end the legal battle. After a 4 year long battle, CMS and the DOJ failed to prove any of their erroneous allegations. Yes, CB - the quotes you referred to were just allegations, check your facts. The industry could do itself a huge favor by choosing to come together in these turbulent times instead of grasping for scapegoats. - Doug Harrison.

[...] the January issue with Doug Harrison, CEO and president of The Scooter Store. First, we heard from “Angry Man.” Today, we heard from a reader out in California. He sent us this letter to the editor: Dear HME [...]

I'm just sick and tired of the constant TV adverts by The Scooter Store, on seemingly all channels at all times of the day, including Prime Time. I remember my dad once told me, "if you see someone advertising a lot on TV, it means they are really doing well and able to afford the cost, so it's better to buy from the little guy and give them a chance". To me, The Scooter Store is just another example of big business greed - no matter how well they do, it's never enough, never.

"The legitimate HME’s suffer while Medicare is billed for scooters for ambulatory consumers...." This is the most untrue statement I have ever heard in my life. I happen to work for The Scooter Store and have seen first hand the rigorous steps it takes to qualify a customer for a PMD (power mobility device).
A customer must have need for a powerchair or scooter to accomplish at least 1 MRADL inside the home. They cannot be able to operate manual wheelchair and if they can walk 3-4 steps unnassisted, they are out of luck. So hopefully their bathroom isn't 12 steps away.....Hundreds of customers are turned away daily because they do not qualify. And to take it a step even further, The Scooter Store will not even bill medicare for repairs on a customer's PMD if they have ceased using it for at least one in-home MRADL.
Now, to top it all off, The Scooter Store has a watchful compliance program. If a compliance violation is commited by an employee, they are most likely terminated or, if the error was first time and an honest mistake, put through rigorous training and are heavily monitored for several months. Furthermore, if The Scooter Store billed medicare for anything regarding the specific customer that was involved in the infraction, all monies are refunded to medicare.
So don't even attempt to state that The Scooter Store is a dishonest and fraudulent company. We work very closely with medicare to make sure we stay within their guidelines. The last thing we want to see is medicare billed a fortune for a person to stay in a nursing home. We love our customers. We provide freedom and independence to people with limited mobility. What does your DME company do?

Wow. Sounds like envy to me. Kudos to the Scooter Store for knowing how to work within the system. A good strategy wins every time. Instead of being angry, why not learn to deliver the same benefits to the customer? Intellectual property is always the most valuable, good job Scooter Store!

In the PERS (emergency pendant) business we are striving to figure out the lay of the land with Medicaid and it would certainly be beneficial if our service was covered by Medicare but any business will get a leg up that masters the landscapes of public and private insurance. Hey Scooter Store, maybe you can !@#$ing help us LOL

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