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by: Theresa Flaherty - Wednesday, April 1, 2015

I don’t know if it’s simply because I’ve stepped into summer, if only briefly, but Medtrade Spring feels like a vacation, compared to the events I usually attend.

No wonder editor Liz Beaulieu has been keeping this trip to herself!

I’ve enjoyed warm weather (it snowed again back home this week), a beautiful copper sunrise, an Egyptian-themed hotel that could only exist in Vegas, and the chance to really experience the show and meet people I only ever talk to on the phone.

Things kicked off bright and early yesterday with AAHomecare’s Washington Update. The association, along with other movers and shakers in the industry, has been slowly and steadily making progress on the industry’s myriad issues, but there remains much to be done.

“It’s not mission accomplished,” said Tom Ryan.

As I write this, the industry has its collective fingers crossed that its binding bids legislation, tucked into the doc fix bill, will pass when the Senate comes back from Easter recess.

Also on the agenda: the audit problem, prior auths and the expansion of bid pricing nationwide.

“We’re working behind the scenes on a plan,” said Ryan.

I spent most of the day hanging at the HME News booth. After years of pestering him on the phone, I finally met provider Mike Kuller in person. Mike’s based in California, and this was his first trip to the show in several years. He was pleasantly surprised at the variety of new products available.

I also met the gang from Top Mobility in Florida who have built a booming retail operation, and Reggie Fullwood, the new owner of Jackson Medical Supply in Mississippi. He's been in HME all of three months, after a  career spent managing casinos. When I asked why on earth he got into the biz, he said, "You're the third person that's asked me that!"

One person who isn’t at the show this year: Shelly Prial. He and his wife recently relocated to South Carolina, so a trip to Vegas simply wasn’t in the cards this year. However, his likeness attended the AAH StandUp event last night—on a stick that was being held up for various pictures.

I capped off the night with dinner at a hotel restaurant, where a highly intoxicated Irishman (is this an oxymoron?) kept calling me Roisin and asking me if he could borrow my glasses. The bar staff finally had to kick him out and apologized profusely to me.

What happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas when its blog fodder.

by: Theresa Flaherty - Monday, March 30, 2015

One thing about a flight to Vegas: there’s a lot of men wearing gold chains on the plane. Not on the first leg of the flight, from Portland, but from our Detroit connection. Real Mainers aren’t flashy. They are however, quite pasty at this time of year.

Following a day of uneventful travel, we arrived at our hotel, you know the one, it looks like a giant pyramid and sphinx, only to find the hotel couldn’t find any of our reservations. That’s got to be right up there with cancelled flights and lost luggage on the weary traveler's checklist of things NOT to do on your trip.

They moved us to the side, gave us bottled water and said they’d take care of us. 

Enter Greg Thompson, also checking in (he had a room). He offered us any help we needed editorially speaking, but when Jo and Rick started joking about bunking down with him, he scampered.

Can’t say as I blame him.

Eventually, the hotel worked it out, just in time before I started having visions of the Motel 6 we passed on the way here.

So here I sit, at 4 in the morning, still on East Coast time with nary a cup of coffee in sight. On the agenda for today: booth set-up (come see us at booth 1005) followed by a couple of sessions. I haven’t determined exactly what, yet, but I am eyeing sessions on CPAP resupply and oxygen.

I’d also like to check out the hotel a bit more to get my bearings (after finally getting into my room, 6 local, but 9 in my mind), I wasted no time in hanging up my clothes, and scattering product around the bathroom before hitting the tequila bar for an icy margarita.

Welcome to Medtrade Spring.


by: Theresa Flaherty - Thursday, March 19, 2015

It’s what I dread most these days when making calls. A disconnected number. Especially when that number belongs to a provider who has cheerfully taken my calls and weighed in on whatever topics I throw at him regularly over the nearly 10 years I’ve been here.

This week, that closed door appears to belong to the owner of a small mom-and-pop diabetes business. It’s not like this hasn’t been coming for a long time, but still. It’s discouraging.

It’s been a diabetes week, all around.

My roommate Manisha began fundraising for the Tour de Cure, a 50k bike race to raise funds for the American Diabetes Association. She’s riding in honor of her father who died of diabetes complications.

I didn’t even know she had a bike, but I immediately donated to the cause. Even though I am kind of the cause.

On Wednesday, I met with the dietician at the diabetes center. We’ve been tweaking my diet because a.) I’ve put on weight and refuse to give in to the fat, and b.) I want to get my AIC down.

The result? I’ve gained three pounds and my AIC has crept up. OMG! WTF?!

Can I say WTF in a company blog?

Maybe I need to start training with Manisha.

Also on Wednesday I got a replacement meter in the mail because mine suddenly stopped working and I’ve been using a backup that is 12 hours off, timewise. Let’s hope I remember how to set it up properly.

Stay tuned.


by: Theresa Flaherty - Monday, March 16, 2015

Update: After all the waiting and lobbying, the passage of HR 284 went relatively quick. Actually, for an act of the government, this was lightning speed. The bill was introduced, moved to suspension calendar, debated for 40 minutes and passed.

We will be reporting this fully, of course. Congrats to everyone who made this happen.

I'm back in the reporter's seat making calls and several of the people who have actually taken my calls have asked: "Have you heard anything about the vote?"

I sometimes feel like an old time mail carrier, bringing word to far-flung frontier.

We, too, are waiting to hear what happens. Since this is the first time the industry has gotten this far ("historic" was Cara Bachenheimer's comment) we had to reach out to learn what steps would unfold on the House floor today, and when we could expect a vote.

According to Cara, Rep. Tiberi, R-Ohio, will give an opening statement on H.R. 284, sometime around 4:45 to 5 pm today, but the bill won't be voted on until, likely, 6:30 or later. 

As soon as we get the word, we'll let you know. Good luck out there!


by: Theresa Flaherty - Tuesday, February 17, 2015

I had to laugh, even though it’s really kind of sad. A Boston Herald article about the ongoing jury selection process for the Boston Marathon bomber featured this quote from the manager of a home medical equipment company. Apparently he hasn’t given the bombings

“any thought. It’s none of my business. If it doesn’t involve me, I don’t need to be involved.”

Granted, there’s no larger context here to put his comments into perspective, but still. What a thing to say! 

I'll bet when he read those comments in print, he was damn glad he has anonymity.

Unfortunately, this caught my eye because I know there are many providers out there who have had a similar attitude toward things like, oh say, competitive bidding. It’s not in their area, so they don’t need to worry. 

Until they do. With bid pricing being implemented nationwide in 2016 (that’s less than a year away), I imagine those fence sitters are starting to feel a few splinters.

Still, there are always new people getting involved, as Rose Schafhauser said in an editorial she published last week. She got three calls from non-members needing information. She converted one caller to member, and one caller planned to speak to the boss about becoming a member. The third caller did not sign up, but Rose holds out hope they’ll think about it in the future.

This isn’t quite the same thing, but it came up for discussion this morning. We have noticed an unfortunate trend in our monthly HME NewsPoll. They aren’t getting nearly the response they used to. In its heyday, the poll could be counted on for 300 or 400 responses. The most recent? 41.

I know, I know, everyone’s tired of bidding and audits and trying to make a living but it’s good to hear your voices. Speak up, call or write your lawmakers (or your favorite industry publication). Those who do let us know what’s going on, as always, I offer thanks.

I’ll assume the rest of you are buried under the snow.

Theresa Flaherty

by: Theresa Flaherty - Monday, February 2, 2015

I got a new TV for Christmas and when I hooked it up, I suddenly had a bunch of new TV channels I don't need but which I am having fun with. At least until the cable company catches on.

What this means is, I have been getting sucked into a lot of shows I don't typically watch, like Big Bang Theory and Mike & Molly. You know Mike & Molly, the story of a policeman and a schoolteacher, both overweight, who find each other.

The episode I caught the other night featured Molly spending the night at Mike's. She looks over to see him wearing his CPAP mask. Now, maybe this was addressed in an earlier episode, but what struck me, besides how funny it looked to me and the laugh track, was that there was no discussion or explanation of the mask. It was all in a night's sleep.

Is the humble CPAP finally becoming mainstream?

I recall blogging a while back about Homer Simpson (another show I don't generally watch) having to wear a CPAP, and I know there have been others as well.

I know Editor Liz Beaulieu is working on a story about a start-up that is looking at 3-D printing for CPAP masks—the ultimate in customization. That's because, all the advances in technology and design aside, the masks are still quite cumbersome, which can impede compliance. Who knows what other technology is coming down the pike?

Here's the start-up I am rooting for: A company that is developing a way for people with diabetes to print their own test strips. On a standard inkjet printer no less. OK, not that standard. You have to rig the printer to shoot enzymes instead of ink, but imagine the cost savings! a projected 5 cents per strip as opposed to nearly $1 per strip.

by: Theresa Flaherty - Monday, January 19, 2015

After being threatened with a walker, my dad has finally begun using (occasionally) a cane. Not always successfully. He tends to carry it, which kind of defeats the purpose. The cane is not from your local DME or pharmacy. It came from the attic (or shed) and apparently belonged to a grandparent, which explains why he hasn’t learned to use it properly.

I was talking to HME providers in early January to see whether they have any after holiday sales, kind of like white sales. I figured the answer was no (it was) but it still made for interesting conversation.

One thing that does drive a bit of retail traffic after the holidays: Adult children who, upon visiting their parents, get a chance to look around and see what their parents might need.

I found myself doing exactly that at Christmas. Where, for example are the grab bars I thought they were planning to have installed in the bathroom? Hell, even I worry sometimes about falling in that hazard pit (bathrooms in general, not my parents’ in particular).

I suppose it would be impractical to put grab rails all around the house.

My mother has also added an extra cushion to the easy chair my father sits in to make it easier for him to stand up (and sit down). Methinks it’s time for him to consider a lift chair, which it turns out is an item that providers definitely promote. 

I think the very idea of a lift chair will make him feel old (uh, dad, you are).

It shouldn’t, providers tell me.

“A lot of people just want a comfortable chair,” said Kevin Brown, owner of All Star Medical. “If they can buy a La-Z-Boy, why not a chair from Golden?”

Why not, indeed?

Still, with all the talk about aging in place, the biggest obstacle in this case would be the age-ee himself—a not uncommon problem, I surmise.

by: Theresa Flaherty - Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Boy, there’s belt-tightening all over the HME industry. Take today when I received my annual birthday card (I am a Christmas Eve baby) from my wing mates.

Rather than drive allll the way over to Rite-Aid on Rte 1 and fork out $2 for a funny, office humor card, or a December birthday card (if your birthday is in, say, May, you probably don’t know that there are very special birthday cards for us December kids), they opted to recycle one of the leftover Christmas cards that we sent out to advertisers and other important people a few years back.

Did they think I wouldn’t recognize it? I probably had to hand-sign 400 of these suckers.

Not one to mince words, I complained.

Me: “You gave me an old Christmas card? One of the most annoying things for someone born near Christmas is to use Christmas gear and try to birthday-ify it.” 

Nicole: “It is?”

It’s the thought that counts and they did write fun messages in the card. And yes, I do plan to enjoy my day, at least the parts that don’t involve a 200-mile drive. Solo. In the rain.

Since I have taken Christmas Eve off (we close at noon anyway, so if CMS drops a bomb on the industry, well, don't look to HME News), as I sit here at my desk on the 23rd of December (any Van Morrison fans out there?) I have pretty much checked out, mentally. But don’t tell the boss, who’s officially back.

Merry Christmas!

Theresa Flaherty

by: Theresa Flaherty - Tuesday, December 16, 2014

It’s been a fun—and busy—three months, but with the return of our editor, Liz Beaulieu, I must hand off my crown.

I won’t lie, I like being in charge. Except when I wish someone else was.

In fact, it’s been a busy three months for the entire industry, with what must, at times, feel like Sisyphean legislation to push, including that long-awaited Senate bill. At press time in mid-December, there’s still a chance to get it passed. As I said to our new(ish) associate editor, Tracy Orzel, it’s one of the biggest stories of the year but with the shortest shelf life, at least from an editorial perspective. Let’s hope by the time you read this in the New Year that the bill passed.

If it hasn’t, well, the bidding window for the Round 2 recompete is scheduled to open in January. You know the drill.

The other big story in 2014—right from day one—was audits. You may remember the memo, from the Chief ALJ no less, raising concerns about the appeals backlog that lit the proverbial fire. Since then, to no one’s surprise, that backlog has ballooned and is closing in on 1 million. That’s outrageous! What ever happened to due process? 

With the majority of appeals being overturned at this level, it’s clear that the system is broken. Claims should not be denied as medically unnecessary when, for instance, the doctor didn’t wear blue socks on that particular Tuesday, as one exasperated provider mentioned during a phone call in November. 

But lest you think I’m all doom and gloom, we hear some wonderful stories from a great number of providers out there. They participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge, raised awareness and funds for diabetes, breast cancer and a host of other causes, and helped out with getting our veterans to Washington D.C. 

We are already looking ahead to 2015, starting immediately with the February issue, planning for two Medtrade shows, the HME Business Summit, and numerous webcasts for the upcoming year. Starting with this issue we have four new Smart Talk columns (LinkedIn, Marketing, Aging in Place and Mergers and Acquisitions) that I hope everyone can learn from. I mean really, just what is LinkedIn for?

In the short term, my boss is returning in mere days. Time to clear out her office and welcome her back!

by: Theresa Flaherty - Thursday, November 13, 2014

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I, for one, am glad the elections are over. 

The onslaught of political mailers (we receive everything in triplicate at my house), the negative TV and radio ads, the knocks on the door. Being a voter is exhausting.

Unfortunately, as election results show, our country remains divided along partisan lines and I fear we face yet another session of partisan squabbling.

I think provider Michael Mayfield said it best when, in his response to our November NewsPoll, he summed it thus: “I have never disliked our government more than I have in the past four years.”

It comes as no surprise to me that HME providers are as divided along party lines as the rest of the country. What I always find interesting about the HME industry when it comes to politics is that, to my eye, it would seem providers face an inherent conflict.

On the one hand, as business owners, they often vote Republican; on the other hand, as professionals in the healthcare industry, they are as equally likely to vote Democrat.

Whichever way we cast our votes, the current lame duck session promises to be a busy one for the industry, which needs to make one last Herculean effort to push through legislation to improve the audit process and reform the flawed Medicare competitive bidding program.

You’re probably as sick of hearing about these bills as I am sick of writing about them (uh, no offense), but it’s the most important thing you can do for your business today.

For now, I look forward to the descent of December’s foggy freeze which closes in on Maine like a very dark blanket. Our publisher, Rick Rector, says the prospect of winter depresses him but I love it—until about May, when I weary of what feels like an uphill battle against snow. 

It’s kind of like...lobbying.