January 2011 vs. January 2012


I like to get a feel for how the HME industry has changed (or not) by comparing the front pages of the January issue of HME News for the current year and the past year. Take a look at the front pages for January 2011 and January 2012:

A few things jump out at me:

* The top stories in each of the front pages have to do with competitive bidding. In 2011, it's the impending implementation out of Round 1; in 2012, it's the roll out of Round 2. Both stories push for providers to be prepared, either to register and submit a bid for Round 2 (2012), or to collect data on bid-related problems in Round 1 (2011). Despite the industry's efforts on the latter, CMS claims competitive bidding has had little impact on beneficiary care.

*Power wheelchairs nabbed a spot on the front pages of both issues. In 2011, there was talk of a black market for power wheelchairs due to the cash crunch created by the elimination of first-month purchase option (The thinking, in a nutshell: If a provider can buy a cheap used wheelchair and supply that to beneficiaries, he can cover his costs in the first month). In 2012, CMS detailed a new demonstration project that involves prepayment reviews and prior authorizations for power wheelchairs. Not on either of these front pages, but likely a topic of many a story in 2012: CMS has decided to combine manual and power wheelchairs into one product category for Round 2 of competitive bidding. Providers of power wheelchairs always have their work cut out for them.

*HME manufacturers continue to shake things up. In 2011, Mal Mixon passed Invacare's CEO baton to Gerry Blouch. In 2012, DeVilbiss Healthcare started to get its footing back after a break up with Sunrise Medical. When people think of the HME industry, they often think of Invacare and Sunrise, and these two stories point to how their companies are a changing.

*HME providers are trying really hard to revision their companies. In 2011, Wright & Filippis started using propane powered vans to not only save on fuel costs but also help the environment. In 2012,  C-Pap Xpress went out of its way to start accommodating patients who have had their CPAP units for five or more years and need a new machine. To me, these are the bright spots on these two front pages.

*HME providers continue to not only take care of patients but also serve their communities, and it's a job they take seriously, year after year after year, despite industry hardships. In 2011, UroMed sponsored and participated in a local "Walk-n-Roll" for spina bifida. In 2012, Sunset Healthcare donated a portion of its sales to and collected toys for "Toys for Tots."

Liz Beaulieu