The year in HME News stories


It will surprise none of our readers that stories on competitive bidding were the 1st and 2nd most viewed stories on HME News’ website in 2010: “CMS releases names of winning bidders,” with 7,734 views; and “CMS announces winning bid amounts,” with 7,012 views. What was surprising to me initially: That our readers seemed to be a little bit more interested in the names of the winning bidders than the winning bid amounts.

This probably has less to do with the lack of interest in and/or shock of a 32% average reimbursement cut (compared to a 27% cut in 2008) and more to do with CMS taking its sweet time releasing the names of the winning bidders. The agency planned to release the names in September, but it didn’t do so until November. Plus, there’s more human interest in knowing the names of the winning bidders (was I on the list, was my competitor?) and there was more the industry could do with that information to fight the program (by pointing out, for example, that this bidder is bankrupt or that bidder doesn’t meet state licensure requirements).

Competitive bidding also shows up in the 6th, 7th and 9th most read stories: “Go figure: Near bankrupt company wins 17 bids,” with 3,595 views (it was Rotech Healthcare, remember?); “Reaction to bid amounts: ‘I don’t know if we can make our way through this,’” with 3,592 views; and “CMS: ‘We’re comfortable, when we look at the prices that we see,’” with 3,049 views.

So in all, competitive bidding was the source of five of the 10 most read stories in 2010. It was the source of only two of the 10 most read stories in 2009. (That year, the most read story was “Oxygen cap: CMS releases more details.” It’s interesting that in 2010,  the year after the cap went into effect, it doesn’t pop up in the most viewed list. Did providers adapt to the cap exceedingly well?)

Three of the stories that showed up on the most viewed list in 2010 are about other Medicare rules that raised the industry’s blood pressure: “Medicare ups ante for CPAPs,” with 5,444 views; “CMS to providers: No PECOS grace period,” with 5,271 views; and “ZPIC: The newest acronym to put fear in the eyes of HME providers,” with 3,537 views. Two of those rules, the additional documentation requirements for CPAPs and the ZPIC audits, will be around for some time. When it comes to PECOS, however, providers will catch a break this year. CMS has made it clear that it won’t start rejecting claims this month from physicians who aren’t enrolled in the system. It will at some point, though, so get ready.

The 5th most viewed story made me scratch my head: “OIG alert adds wrinkle to DME ordering process,” with 5,013 views. Honestly, when I saw this story on the list, I couldn’t even remember what it was about. After rereading it, now I know why. The story details a fraud alert from the OIG that puts a new spin on the age-old HME question: When and how can providers contact beneficiaries? A reminder: only when the beneficiary gives written permission; only when it’s regarding a covered item that the provider has already furnished; and only when the provider has furnished at least one covered item to the beneficiary during the preceding 15 months.

It’s interesting that all but one of the most viewed stories focus on what’s being done to providers, instead of what they’re doing. The 10th most viewed story, “Henry Ford drives new retail model for HME,” with 2,825 views, is the only story that’s about providers taking control over their own destinies.

A New Year’s resolution for 2011: More Henry Ford, less Medicare.

Liz Beaulieu