CMS trying to boldly go where it shouldn't: Alaska


Did you know that if you laid the state of Alaska on top of the Lower 48 (as they refer to it from up there), it would cover an area stretching from Minnesota to Texas? And that there are only about eight DME providers in the whole state?

I had the unusual opportunity to talk to providers in both Alaska and Hawaii this week. It’s only unusual because, from our far east outpost here in Maine, the time difference between our beautiful states seems insurmountable (it’s not, only 4 and 5 hours, respectively).

I reached out to ProCare in Anchorage to see what they thought of CMS's latest ill-advised plan to expand competitive bidding pricing nationwide in 2016.

“Under no circumstances for Alaska would this be a workable scenario,” James McComas, COO, told me.

Not only is the sheer cost of doing business in the Last Frontier 30% higher, it’s a sparsely populated state with remote areas accessible only by plane—no UPS abilities here, says McComas.

What, I asked, would happen if providers from the lower 48 tried to service Alaska (because we’ve all seen what has happened in the Round 2 areas—servicing Hawaii from Florida? Please), he didn’t mince words. It’s a logistical nightmare.

“I came from the Lower 48,” he said. “You have to be here to appreciate and learn to adapt to this environment, its sheer size and the difficulty in getting accessibility to areas.”

In other words, if you think Mrs. Smith has trouble getting a Medicare walker in Nashville, don’t even bother in Fairbanks.

Theresa Flaherty