You can't get there from here
Well, it's no surprise that we are hearing scattered reports about beneficiaries having trouble getting home medical equipment in Round 2 CBAs. Lehan Drugs took to twitter to announce that a patient in the greater Chicago area was having trouble getting a hospital bed. In that particular area, there are only four in-state contract suppliers. And, let's face it, who's gonna ship a hospital bed from, oh say, Florida, that hotbed of contract suppliers? Finally, they found someone, a "big DME biz" who'll get to it in a few weeks.
I imagine this is a microcosm of what's going to happen across the country, especially as the program gets underway. It points to the heart of what the industry has said all along, that care needs to be provided locally, at least for most of these items. CMS can tout the number of contract suppliers all it wants (well, except for in Tennessee where they relieved a bunch of suppliers of their contracts and failed to replace them), but the fact is, a contract does not equal a supplier.
In our local newspaper today, there is an article about how Anthem, a major insurer, wants to create a healthcare network that wouldn't cover every town the state. That's fine, in theory, but much of Maine, once you head north of Cumberland County, is rural. And I don't just mean rural with a highway through it, I mean rural backroads, backwoods and backcountry. After all, this is the state where we say, "You can't get there from here (heah)."
And if you don't have a car (though to be fair, most of us do), you are out of luck. There's no public transportation.
It's not difficult to draw a broad parallel between this and what's happening in Lehan Drugs' neck of the woods, where there are four in-state contract suppliers to cover 2,700 miles. It's going to create access problems. That's going to create expenses to the health care system.
But, we said this in the last go-round of the program and we'll say it again: The best thing the industry can do now is let the chips fall. In other words, don't provide equipment, provide help in the form of transitioning patients, and provide phone numbers for complaint hotlines. Keep track of data. Build your case.