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On the state front lines

On the state front lines

YARMOUTH, Maine - Rose Schafhauser and Beth Bowen both manage multiple state and regional HME associations and had to cancel popular events in the spring due to the coronavirus pandemic. It was a difficult decision, but soon after, Schafhauser and Bowen were consumed with being a clearinghouse for COVID-19 information in multiple states. Here's some of what they were experiencing in late March.

Essential businesses

With different states taking different approaches to business closures, one of the first priority items for state associations was confirming HME companies as essential businesses and producing documentation for them that their employees could keep on them during “shelter in place” orders.

“They're using their letters, along with ID badges, should they get stopped,” said Schafhauser, executive director of MAMES.

Rock stars

Among the positive developments in March that state associations were able to help facilitate: an initiative in North Carolina to reduce the licensing time for respiratory therapists from 30 days to two days as a way to increase the number of RTs available during the pandemic.

“All of these respiratory therapists are being asked to come out of retirement to help out with the demand,” said Beth Bowen, executive director of ACMESA. “They're putting aside certain things until this crisis passes.” 

Another positive development: the number of states being granted 1135 waivers by CMS, giving their Medicaid programs flexibilities like allowing out-of-state providers to render services and waiving prior authorization requests.

“Missouri has been a rock star,” Schafhauser said. “They came out right away and used the waiver to implement telehealth specific to DME.”


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