Do you hear what I hear?


In the beginning of the Sept. 19 PMD demo congressional hearing, the two senators there thought that mobility companies that advertise on TV were pulling something over on American taxpayers. (Just watch the opening remarks and you'll see what I mean.)

They even played commercials from both Hoveround and The Scooter Store (no idea how old or new these were, since I don't watch a lot of TV and hadn't seen either one before.) 

I did feel that, from Scooter Store VP Michael Clark's testimony, and from what the senators heard from the other people testifying, that they had come to see that the issues surrounding power mobility are extremely complex.

For one thing, the error rate the senators were objecting to wasn't because patients are getting a bunch of medically unnecessary wheelchairs, but because of issues with documentation. Any overpayment can't be blamed solely on a TV commercial—as Clark said, the doctors are gatekeepers of the PMD benefit.

All CMS objected to was that the commercials showed people using their PMDs outside, when Medicare doesn't pay for PMDs to be used outside the home. (Because people who need HME should all be trapped in their homes and not allowed to go outside, ever. Sorry, the "in the home" restriction is one of my hot buttons.)

So I thought the senators had a different mindset at the end of the hearing.

And then I saw this press release from Sen. Blumenthal, one of the two senators who attended the hearing. 

Apparently, he's still beating the "advertising tactics are costing Americans millions in PMD overpayments" drum. And he's planning to send letters to the FDA and CMS asking for more oversight over advertising practices and "fraud recovery efforts."

He says: "We need to do more to address the root cause of this problem. Aggressive advertisements directed at seniors, which intentionally misrepresent the devices’ risks versus benefits and the Medicare coverage criteria, need to be stopped. These misleading ads elevate seniors’ expectations about the use of power wheelchairs and scooters and convince them that they need such devices even though doctors say a different course of treatment may be more medically appropriate."

Already a few newspapers have picked this up. Not sure where this will lead us.

To be honest, I was surprised to see this happen. I listened to the same testimony he did, but I guess we heard dramatically different things.