‘It is no longer worth the pit in my stomach’

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04/04/2018

It’s always disappointing when the HME industry’s efforts to get relief from Medicare’s competitive bidding program fail to cross the finish line. But this last time around, when H.R. 4229 failed to make the cut in a recently passed omnibus bill, it was particularly disappointing.

In the weeks leading up to the vote on the omnibus bill, I received emails from several providers asking, do you think it will happen? After the vote, the “ask” became, do you think it will ever happen?

I offered summaries of stories we’ve written chronicling the industry’s efforts, which I’m sure wasn’t anything they didn’t already know, but was the only tangible thing I could offer. That, and my shared frustration.

Following the vote on the omnibus bill, I also got a fax from a provider titled “A sad ending to a 23-year career.” The reimbursement cuts, coupled with draconian audits, has led the provider to “throw in the towel, like so many of my colleagues.”

The fax, from Juli Shogan, RN and owner of Wound Solutions, reads in full:

“I am in my 23rd year of working in the DME industry. Tonight marks the most discouraged I have ever been. One would think that after 23 years in the industry, being a registered nurse, building relationships, and providing the best customer service possible, the job would get easier—not harder.

Because of the recent and drastic Medicare cuts, I had no choice but to lay off the technician that I had employed for the previous 10 years. Now, at age 55, I am back to delivering, cleaning, repairing and servicing equipment. In addition to marketing and running the company on a day-to-day business.

I am well aware of the qualifying criteria for the products I carry. I wouldn’t pay for, deliver and spend time billing if the patients didn’t fit said criteria. I collect correct forms from physicians, along with supporting documentation. I deliver equipment to Medicare patients and cross my fingers that they w ill pay. I get one denial after another for reasons that make no sense. They deny for reasons that simply are not true and I have documentation to prove so.

I am finally throwing in the towel, like so many other of my colleagues. And, who will ultimately pay? The patients! There will soon be no companies left willing to roll the dice and hope they get paid a 65% reduced rate for buying, delivering and servicing much cheaper version of equipment because that is all they can afford to possibly make a measly profit.

Once upon a time, I was willing to jump through Medicare’s hoops, follow 27 standards and pay to be accredited because I was being adequately compensated. It is no longer worth the pit in my stomach that I feel each time I open an envelope to a denial, an unfavorable reconsideration, or a low reimbursement rate.

I hope all the money that Medicare is saving is benefitting someone? I know it has not been any benefit to those of us who provide equipment. I know that patients are not benefitting from receiving much ‘cheaper’ equipment since that is all we can afford to deliver.

This industry is in crisis. I have held on as long as I could afford to. I had hoped that some help would come my way. Things just keep getting worse with no relief in sight. I have to break the news to my local customers that one more company is bowing out. But I can’t continue to ‘donate’ my time it takes to deliver equipment and to ‘donate’ the disposables that I deliver and get denied on that I can’t ever collect.

So much for the mistaken notion of building a business and putting in the hard work early on to reap the rewards on the back side. This industry has never been so hard. I am working twice as hard for less than half the money.”

Multiply Juli’s situation by what … thousands? There are no words.