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    01/23/2014
    HME News Staff

    NEW YORK – Beneficiaries find Medicare expensive and confusing, the Medicare Rights Center has found. 

    The center’s findings are based on an analysis of more than 14,000 calls made to its national helpline in 2012.

    “This analysis of our national helpline makes clear that too many people with Medicare are burdened by high healthcare costs, and too many struggle to navigate the complexities of the Medicare program,” said Joe Baker, president, in a release.

    The center found that Medicare households spend 14% of their budgets on health care, versus 5% for non-Medicare households.

    It also found that a lack of accurate information led newly enrolling beneficiaries to face late enrollment penalties, gaps in coverage and delayed treatment.

    Additionally, the center found an inefficient appeals system and constantly changing coverage rules pose barriers to medical care. 

    The center calls for expanded access to and automatic enrollment in low-income assistance programs, a streamlined and accessible appeals process, and better communications with those transitioning into Medicare. 

    “Both members of Congress and the administration should view this report as a call to action,” Baker said. “Now is the time to seek solutions that make Medicare a fairer, simpler and more affordable benefit.”

    Founded in 1989, the Medicare Rights Center is a nonprofit organization that helps beneficiaries understand their rights and benefits under Medicare.


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    01/24/2014
    Theresa Flaherty

    WASHINGTON – Expect the outcry over audits to heat up in the coming weeks, say HME industry stakeholders.

    The Office of Medicare Hearings and Appeals (OMHA) plans to hold a daylong forum Feb. 12 to discuss a massive backlog of appeals that has forced it to suspend the assignment of new cases to the administrative law judges (ALJs) for as long as two years. Chief ALJ Nancy Griswold detailed the dire situation in a Dec. 31 memo to providers who currently have appeals pending.

    “I think the memo was an attempt by the judge to showcase that they don’t have the manpower,” said John Gallagher, vice president of government affairs for The VGM Group. “They are throwing up a huge red flag to cease and desist.”

    Gallagher plans to strike while the iron is hot, meeting with lawmakers the day after the forum, on Feb. 13. VGM is urging providers to join him.

    Stakeholders aren’t the only ones crying foul. The American Coalition for Healthcare Claims Integrity on Jan. 21 issued a response to Griswold’s memo, accusing the ALJ of “jamming up the auditing process and undermining the RAC program overall.”

    With audits affecting such a wide swath of health care—not just HME providers—stakeholders are reaching out across the aisle to home health agencies and hospital groups.

    “We plan to draft a letter to CMS reiterating what all the associations are saying,” said Kim Brummett, director of regulatory affairs for AAHomecare. 

    But getting everyone on the same page may be a challenge, stakeholders acknowledges.

    “Because the healthcare system is so fractionalized, we rarely ever find out what someone else wants to do or is considering doing until it is done,” said Edward Vishnevetsky, an attorney with Munsch Hardt. “We still need to go at this and contact others.”


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    01/24/2014
    Elizabeth Deprey

    WASHINGTON – CMS on Jan. 6 officially began denying claims with the names of physicians not enrolled in PECOS, and providers say so far, so good.

    “We’ve been very fortunate,” said Lori Corey, vice president of finance for Waukesha, Wis.-based Oxygen One. “It’s been very smooth.”

    This phase of PECOS has been years in the making. There have been numerous delays, most recently from May 1, 2013.

    Those delays have been a big help in allowing providers to get doctors up to speed with handouts and other educational efforts, they say.

    “We panicked years ago, when they first extended the deadline,” said Dave Mills, co-owner of Chesapeake, Va.-based First Choice in Homecare. “Back then, around 50% of doctors weren’t signed up. When they extended it, we didn’t stop our educational efforts.”

    Any issues that have come up have been minor, says provider Chris Rice. 

    “Maybe the doctor’s name is spelled wrong—not wrong, but different from what’s in PECOS—minor things like that,” said Rice, CEO of Diamond Respiratory Care in Riverside, Calif.

    Another issue: Physicians submitting prescriptions using a group number, rather than an individual number.

    Billing expert Peggy Walker says she’s heard of some military physicians refusing to register with PECOS and some DME MACs needing to update some of the information in the system, but that’s about it.

    “For most people, this really was less painful than they thought it would be,” said Walker, a billing specialist for The VGM Group’s U.S. Rehab.

    Providers say the process of checking to see if a physician is enrolled in PECOS has also been pretty painless, thanks to software vendors stepping up to the plate to flag those physicians in their systems.

    “We’ve really had to do nothing; it’s all done by software vendor,” said Paul Reses, co-owner of Pleasantville, N.J.-based Lincoln Medical Supply. “That’s good, because we don’t have time to deal with this—we’ve got a thinned down staff because of thinned down reimbursements.”


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    01/24/2014
    HME News Staff

    LAKE FOREST, Calif. – Apria Healthcare will no longer file reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), according to a Form-8K dated Jan. 21. Apria was obligated to file periodic reports with the SEC pursuant to the terms of indenture governing the company’s outstanding 12.375% senior secured notes due 2014. On Jan. 16, however, the company provided a notice of redemption for all of its notes and effected a satisfaction and discharge of the company’s obligation under the indenture. “As a result, the company is no longer obligated to and will not voluntarily file reports with the SEC,” the form states.In April 2013, Apria announced that it had obtained a term loan credit facility of $900 million and had issued notices of redemption for $700 million of its outstanding 11.25% senior secured notes (series A-1) and $160 million of its outstanding 12.375% senior secured notes (series A-2), both due in 2014. In November, Apria further reduced its debt when it sold its home infusion business, Coram, to CVS Caremark for $2.1 billion. In its most recent earnings call on Nov. 12, Apria reported net revenues of $607.2 million for the third quarter ended Sept. 30, 2013, a decreases of $1.3 million from the same quarter in 2012. The company blamed the decrease on the reimbursement cuts that took effect July 1, 2013, as part of Round 2 of competitive bidding.

    Invacare plans to outsource IT

    ELYRIA, Ohio – Invacare plans to outsource its information technology division to the Japanese company NTT Data, according to The Chronicle-Telegram. The move means dissolving the company’s 24-person in-house IT department. Employees will be able to interview with NTT Data, and those not hired will be laid off with severance packages, according to the newspaper. “It is my understanding that a majority will receive positions with NTT onsite or elsewhere,” said spokeswoman Lara Mahoney. “They will also be offered a position at the same salary scale.” Invacare is in the process of working through a third and final third-party audit required as part of a consent decree with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

    Medicare beneficiaries blast audits in new video

    WATERLOO, Iowa – In a new video, People for Quality Care (PFQC), the advocacy arm of The VGM Group, zooms in on CMS’s crippling audit program. “CMS payment denials occur due to paperwork errors and ignore the medical necessity of equipment for individuals with spinal cord injuries and other disabilities,” the PFQC states in a release. “Denials cause unnecessary burden on patients, caregivers and family members.” The eight-minute video features patients of Mobility Medical, a Dallas-based provider that is currently appealing denials for up to 80 patients. One of those patients: Phillip. His physician forgot to include a sentence in her notes indicating that she had referred him to a seating specialist in her clinic. “Twenty-eight years in a wheelchair and I’ve never had an issue until now,” Phillip says in the video. Mobility Medical operates at a loss when Medicare delays payments, because it has often already provided the needed equipment and services. “(While Mobility Medical) has filled in the gaps that Medicare policies have left…many Medicare patients across the country are not so lucky,” the PFQC states.

    Bid program limits access to meters, group says

    CHICAGO – Competitive bidding limits patient access to the most accurate blood-glucose meters, the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) says. The group found that only three of the 23 contract suppliers they surveyed are providing all the brands of testing supplies that they told Medicare they would provide, according to a release. “This study shows that the national mail-order program is limiting access to diabetes testing supplies,” said Chief Advocacy Officer Martha Rinker. A separate survey by the AADE found that 27% of patients with Type 1 diabetes and 9% of patients with Type 2 diabetes experienced health problems related to inaccurate readings.

    Ottobock to relocate headquarters

    MINNEAPOLIS – Ottobock is relocating its North American headquarters from Minneapolis to Austin, Texas, the company has announced. It’s part of a wider move that will see fabrication and service moved to Salt Lake City and warehousing and logistics moved to Louisville, Ky. “As Ottobock looked to the future, we sought locations that will help us to best serve our customers in the decades to come,” a release states. “Regional expertise and an environment where our employees and the organization could flourish were our top considerations, as is our continuing commitment to improving patient outcomes and supporting clinical excellence.”

    Name changes for Sleep Nation, CPAP Care Club

    NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Sleep Nation and CPAP Care Club have changed their names to Verus Healthcare to better reflect an expanding product portfolio that includes catheters and nebulizers. The new products are in response to customer feedback, according to a release. "Since we are now receiving well over a thousand patient satisfaction surveys per month, we are able to clearly see that our customers want us to provide a variety of products to them," said President Richardson Roberts in the release. "We also realized that the software platform we've built and the capabilities of our employees are well-suited to support catheters and nebulizer products nationwide." Verus says it tripled its number of customers in 2013 and expects that trend, buoyed by the new products, to continue in 2014. Sleep Nation, which accepted competitive bidding contacts in all 50 states, has acquired more than 40 sleep providers since launching in May 2012.

    Liberator claims no knowledge of unusual market activity

    STUART, Fla. – Liberator Medical doesn’t know why its stock prices fell sharply the morning of Tuesday, Jan. 21, according to a release. The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), in accordance with its usual practice, contacted Liberator when the company’s stock fell from $5.9942 to $4.18 in a matter of hours of trading. While its policy, in general, is not to comment on unusual market activity, Liberator said it “knows of no event or series of events that could have caused such market activity,” according to the release. Two days later, on Jan. 23, Liberator’s stock was back at $5.31.

    University of Arizona receives $2M grant to study sleep apnea

    TUSCON, Ariz. – Scientists from the University of Arizona have received a $2 million grant to study whether telephone counseling helps sleep apnea patients stick with their treatment plans. Researchers will examine how outcomes, quality of life and treatment adherence are affected when community volunteers counsel patients over the phone, according to a release. "Fragmentation of care can lead to poor treatment adherence in patients with chronic medical conditions that can, in turn, lead to adverse health consequences, poor quality of life and patient dissatisfaction," said Sairam Parthasarathy, research team leader, associate professor of medicine at the university’s College of Medicine and medical director of its Center for Sleep Disorders. "We will use sleep apnea—a very common condition that affects 7% to 12% of the U.S. population—as an example condition to test the effect of community volunteer engagement, combined with the universal availability of personal cellphones, on the problem of poor care coordination and treatment adherence to the CPAP treatment for sleep apnea.” The study is one of 82 recently funded by the non-profit Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute.

    Rights group: Beneficiaries struggle under Medicare

    NEW YORK – Beneficiaries find Medicare expensive and confusing, the Medicare Rights Center has found. The center’s findings are based on an analysis of more than 14,000 calls made to its national helpline in 2012. “This analysis of our national helpline makes clear that too many people with Medicare are burdened by high healthcare costs, and too many struggle to navigate the complexities of the Medicare program,” said Joe Baker, president, in a release. The center found that Medicare households spend 14% of their budgets on health care, versus 5% for non-Medicare households. It also found that a lack of accurate information led newly enrolling beneficiaries to face late enrollment penalties, gaps in coverage and delayed treatment. Additionally, the center found an inefficient appeals system and constantly changing coverage rules pose barriers to medical care. The center calls for expanded access to and automatic enrollment in low-income assistance programs, a streamlined and accessible appeals process, and better communications with those transitioning into Medicare.

    Incontinence market to reach $17B by 2020, study says

    SAN FRANCISCO – The worldwide market for incontinence and ostomy supplies will grow from $11.5 billion in 2012 to $17 billion by 2020, according to a Grand View Research study published Jan. 17. High rates of incontinence, inflammatory bowel disease and ulcerative colitis, combined with higher demand for home and institutional healthcare and greater patient awareness, are driving the growth, according to the release. Absorbent disposable products dominate the market, accounting for more than 85% of revenue in 2012, according to the report. While North America holds the largest market share—more than 35% in 2012—the market is growing the fastest in the Asia-Pacific region, the report states.

    Gov’t to invest $10M in O&P research

    WASHINGTON –Congress has instructed the Department of Defense (DOD) to invest $10 million to research orthotics and prosthetics outcomes and support educational advances, according to the American Orthotic & Prosthetic Association (AOPA). Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., worked with the association to get the funding included in a recently enacted budget bill. AOPA is now in conversations with congressional offices and DOD officials to suggest some of the key areas where these funds should be spent.

    Ride-Away surprises family on hit TV show

    ADDISON, Texas – On today’s episode of “The Doctors,” Ride-Away will present Natalie and Timothy Rogers with a wheelchair accessible van to help them transport their son, Jaiden, who suffers stiff skin syndrome. The Rogers say the van will enable Jaiden to go to school, according to a release. “Once we heard about Jaiden’s challenge, we knew that, as the leader in our industry, we had to make getting from place to place one less challenge that he had to face daily,” said Bob Desmarais, Ride-Away president, in the release. “We were honored to help him and his family with a van.” Ride-Away, a subsidiary of Hasco Medical, worked with BraunAbility to find a suitable van.

    Just Home Medical launches online resource

    FULTON, Md. – Just Home Medical’s new online Medical Resource Center aims to answer consumer questions through an FAQ section and a blog. The resource center features articles on 17 topics, including asthma and diabetes, and more will be added, according to the release. “Our consumer base is as diverse as the range of products we offer, and we wanted to give them a place where they could find tips tailored to their specific needs,” said Bryan Mercer, founder, in the release. “It’s the informational equivalent of our one-stop-shopping destination.” In addition to receiving helpful tips twice a week, visitors may submit questions to be answered by health experts, including a registered pharmacist, pediatric nurse practitioner and registered dietician.

    Women’s health trade show set for March 16-18

    OXFORD, Mich. – Essentially Women will hold its annual educational conference and trade show March 16-18 in Reno, Nev., according to a Jan. 20 release. The show, called Focus on the Future, is host to exhibits from manufacturers and distributors of women’s health care products, including post-surgery, compression, orthopedics and lymphedema products. Accreditation, software, billing and breast-cancer awareness products will also be on display, according to the release. In addition to exhibits, attendees can sit in on courses on business development, management, sales, marketing, merchandising, accreditation, lobbying and Medicare. Other presentations will address the screening and detection of breast cancer, and billing Medicare for external breast prostheses.

    Tandem expands voluntary recall of insulin cartridges

    SAN DIEGO – Tandem Diabetes Care is expanding the voluntary recall of certain lots of insulin cartridges used with the t:slim insulin pump, the company announced Jan. 20. The cartridges may leak, which could result in the pump delivering too much or too little insulin, according to the statement. “We are confident that we have identified all of the affected cartridge lots that may have been shipped to customers or distributors and that we have implemented appropriate corrective actions to prevent this from happening in the future,” said Kim Blickenstaff, Tandem president and CEO, in the release. Affected lots shipped between Dec. 17, 2013, and Jan. 10, 2014, or before Oct. 16, 2013, according to the release.

    OIG to CMS: Review oversight process for CERT

    BALTIMORE – The error rate reduction plans of Medicare claims administrator contractors are not always relevant to CERT results and vary substantially in number, according to a new report from the Office of Inspector General (OIG). CMS oversight of error rate reduction plans is limited and the staff that reviewed the plans may have been unable to determine whether the plans addressed their most recent CERT results, the OIG found. “Additionally, although some of the sampled plans did not include the five required elements or were for contracts with high error rates, CMS approved all sampled plans without recommending different or additional corrective actions,” the OIG stated. The OIG recommends CMS review its oversight process, ensure contractors submit clear error-reduction plans, provide more guidance for those who review the plans, and provide incentives aligned with error rates and performance periods. CMS agreed with the recommendations.

    Hasco launches updated website

    ADDISON, Texas – Hasco Medical has overhauled its Mobility Freedom website, adding inventory search capabilities and an interactive interface to help consumers search for wheelchair vans. “We determined there is not a perfect off-the-shelf software solution in the automotive market that helps our consumers find the perfect wheelchair van,” said Damon Didier, marketing director, in a release. “We designed our custom inventory search tools with our customers in mind, enabling them to categorize and search on the unique features people needing a wheelchair van are searching for.” Customers can use the site to fill out credit applications or contact stores and mobility consultants, according to the release.

    Short takes

    The American Association of Breast Care Professionals has redesigned its website based on surveys and member calls. The website now features government relations information, study materials, a calendar of classes and webinars, social media and a blog for news alerts…The Innovative HME Retail Product Awards, debuted at last year’s Medtrade, will be featured at Medtrade Spring, March 10-12. Judges will select the best new items based on functionality, quality and durability, aesthetics and style, environmental sustainability and ease of retail setup and pricing…Paragon Ventures, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary, has been named the 2013 U.S. Deal Maker of the Year by Acquisition International. The company also won the Lawyers Choice Award as Healthcare M&A Advisory of the Year and the 2013 Pennsylvania Excellence In Commerce Award.

    People news

    Brian Borger is the new executive director of Freeport, Ill.-based Freeport Home Medical Equipment. Most recently the financial center manager of 5/3 Bank, Borger has experience in business management, staff development and finance, according to a release…Patrick Ryan has been named COO of Insulet Corporation. Most recently COO and international president of Alphatec Spine, Ryan has experience in global supply chains and is an experienced medical device executive, according to a release…Craig Weber has been named CEO of Home Care Delivered. Weber previously served as the company’s CFO and executive vice president for corporate development, and helped the company obtain capital to fuel its growth.


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    01/24/2014
    Elizabeth Deprey

    OMAHA – Providers rely on nurse practitioners to prescribe HME in many rural areas where physicians are hard to come by—but Nebraska providers have no such recourse.

    “As our regulations sit, only MDs and DOs can write prescriptions for DME under the Medicaid benefit,” said Ed Erickson, general manager at North Platte, Neb.-based Great Plains Homecare Equipment. “It’s very important that any mid-level practitioner be able to write orders for this equipment to prevent delays. There’s a real bottleneck here.”

    If a physician goes on vacation, for example, it could add weeks to the process. That puts providers and patients on hold.

    The current regulation is based on misinterpreted information from CMS, Erickson said.

    “They’ve based this on egregious information from Medicare as to who can write orders—what Medicare was referencing applies to home health and they’ve blanketed it onto the DMEPOS side of things,” he said. 

    Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like that’s going to change anytime soon.

    The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) held a public hearing Dec. 19 to discuss proposed changes to Medicaid regulations. Stakeholders from both HME and nursing used the hearing to push for mid-level practitioners to be allowed to sign orders for HME, but they didn’t get far. 

    Still, Erickson says providers in Nebraska won’t give up. 

    “We could approach a statute change, but that’s a burdensome process,” he said. “It appears we will go at least another year with the current restrictions.”


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    01/24/2014
    Elizabeth Deprey

    HARRISBURG, Pa. – With the departure of high-profile executive director John Shirvinsky in December and a game-changing state health program on the horizon, 2014 will not be a quiet year for the Pennsylvania Association of Medical Suppliers (PAMS.)

    After a five-day retirement from Meadville, Pa.-based Vantage Home Medical Equipment and Services, longtime PAMS board member and past board chair Tom Sedlak took on the part time executive director position Jan. 6. 

    His first order of business: a proposed Healthy PA initiative, effective 2016, that completely revamps the state’s healthcare program, including placing limits on HME spending. 

    “We’re going to hit the ground running,” said Sedlak. “This is another strike against DME. We’re reading through the 97-page proposal, attending every meeting and submitting comments.”

    The plan also calls for enrolling 500,000 new people into the state’s managed care programs.

    “If providers don’t have contracts with these insurance companies, will they be excluded?” said Caryn Plessinger, PAMS executive committee chairwoman. “We’re working to understand as much as we can about how this will affect our members.”

    PAMS’s focus on Healthy PA is part of a renewed focus on state issues, association members say. 

    Other goals: actively increase membership, promote educational webinar offerings regarding compliance and accreditation, and maintain efforts regarding competitive 

    bidding.  

    While Sedlak says the association’s membership has remained steady overall, PAMS member John Letizia says more members are needed to fight for the industry.

    “Trying to go it alone is very difficult,” said Letizia, owner of Laurel Medical Supplies in Ebensburg, Pa. “We need a strong board and a strong membership.”


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    01/24/2014
    Liz Beaulieu

    If you’re a business owner and you think LinkedIn is just a way to manage your professional identity, you’re missing a big sales and marketing opportunity, says consultant Mike Sperduti. HME News caught up with Sperduti, the president of Emerge Sales, in January to talk about how HME providers can use LinkedIn as a revenue-generating tool—the topic of a two-part webcast he’s hosting in February. “This is a discussion about money, not your image,” he said.

    HME News: OK, spill the beans: How can providers use LinkedIn as a sales and marketing tool?

    Mike Sperduti: You know the old adage: Knowledge is power. What LinkedIn does is give you insights into the individuals you want to do business with. You can’t forget that referral sources are individuals and the astute ones have profiles on LinkedIn. That profile gives you insight into their world—what school did they go to, what has been their career path, what are their hobbies?

    HME: So I find out that a case manager at a local hospital volunteers for the same organization as I do. What do I do with that knowledge?

    Sperduti: When you’re talking about sales and marketing, the first thing you’re looking to do is build a bridge so you have something in common. They don’t know you, so they don’t want to refer business to you. This gives you visibility into what you might have in common. It gives you the ability to build rapport fast. People won’t listen to you until you have rapport with them.

    HME: At the very least it could help break the ice during a cold call.

    Sperduti: Everyone hates cold calling. Most sales reps haven’t been trained and they feel uncomfortable with it. LinkedIn helps to make it gold calling. It gives them the gold to approach people easier.

    HME: What about the company itself? Should an owner create a LinkedIn profile for the company?

    Sperduti: When I think of HME News, I think of you, Theresa, Rick. The credibility of HME News is based on its people. It’s really important—and this is a mind shift for a lot of providers—that you help your employees with their LinkedIn profiles. When I do business with an organization, I’m not looking at the organization’s profile, I’m looking at the profile of the person who’s my contact at the organization. If that person is credible and brings value, I do business with that organization. It starts with the individual and rolls back up to the company.

    HME: What are some of the things that should be in employee profiles?

    Sperduti: What does the profile pic look like—is it in color, does it look professional? What does their bio look like—what kind of story does it tell about who they are? Does the profile include a link to the company website? If it’s a sales rep, they could even have a video done on YouTube that says, “I’m Mike. I rep such and such HME company…” No one is doing that.

    HME: So I’m using LinkedIn to learn about by referral sources and I have an appropriate profile for myself, my company and my key employees. Is there more to this?

    Sperduti:  A lot more. One of the next steps is how to take your assets to the people on LinkedIn. You can use the email system within LinkedIn to do the prospecting for you. When it’s done right, it results in repeatable and predictable business.


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    01/24/2014
    HME News Staff

    SAN DIEGO –ResMed has reported revenues of $384.3 million for the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2013, a 2% increase compared to the same quarter in 2012. 

    The company’s net income for the quarter, $86.6 million, is an 11% increase.

    While quarterly revenues outside the Americas grew 8% to $177.7 million, revenues in the Americas fell 2% to $206.6 million. The company blames, in part, the competitive bidding program.

    “While we are disappointed with the U.S. numbers, the two key issues, as we have previously noted, are market restructuring due to competitive bidding and increased competitor activity,” stated CEO Mick Farrell in a release. “Having said that, competitive bidding’s impact on volume in the U.S. market is beginning to moderate, and we are partnering with our U.S. customers to position for the growth that we see ahead.”

    For the six months ended Dec. 31, 2013, ResMed saw revenue of $742 million, a 4% increase over the same period in 2012. Net income was $167.6 million, a 12% increase.

    For the quarter, ResMed also reported $105 million in operating profit, cash flow from operations of $84.2 million and a gross margin that increased to 64.7%.

    On Jan. 23, ResMed’s board of directors declared a quarterly dividend of $0.25 per share, with a record date of Feb. 19. The divided will be payable March 19.


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    01/28/2014
    HME News Staff

    WASHINGTON – The Medicare Strike Force set record numbers for healthcare prosecutions last year, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Jan.27.

    The Strike Force, a partnership between the DOJ and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), filed 137 cases, charged 345 individuals and secured 234 guilty pleas in fiscal year 2013. Its work also resulted in 46 jury trial convictions.

    “These record results underscore our determination to hold accountable those who take advantage of vulnerable populations, commit fraud on federal healthcare programs, and place the safety of others at risk for illicit financial gain,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “By targeting our enforcement efforts to ‘hot spots’ in nine cities, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force is allowing us to fight back more effectively than every before.”

    Since its inception in 2007, the Strike Force has charged more than 1,700 defendants representing more than $5.5 billion in claims. It currently operates in Baton Rouge, La.; Brooklyn, N.Y.; Chicago; Dallas; Detroit; Houston; Los Angeles; Miami; and Tampa, Fla.

    A recent report by the Office of Inspector General found that for every $1 spent by the DOJ and HHS to fight healthcare fraud, the U.S. Treasury and the Medicare Trust Fund receives $8.


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  • 01/30/14--10:45: NSM head hits the road
  • Company-wide engagement tour kicked off Jan. 29
    01/30/2014
    HME News Staff

    CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – National Seating & Mobility is going analog and getting personal. 

    Chief operating officer Sandi Schwartz Neiman launched the company’s “All-In” road tour Jan. 29 in Asheville, N.C., the company announced. She’ll visit branches across the U.S., talking with staff about the company’s commitment to complex rehab.

    “Digital communications make great operational tools, but there’s nothing like face-to-face conversations at every branch,” Schwartz Neiman said, in the release. “The bus tour intends to fortify our traditional mission and the alignment between local branch services and national support.”

    The company hopes all stakeholders—clients, caregivers and therapists—benefit from listening to and talking with Schwartz Neiman, according to the release.


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    Video begs the question: ‘Why would this person not qualify for a wheelchair?’
    01/31/2014
    Liz Beaulieu

    WATERLOO, Iowa – Competitive bidding will always be a main focus, but People for Quality Care (PFQC) has turned its attention to the equally destructive audits in 2014.

    “We’re not leaving competitive bidding behind, but there are other issues that we need to bring awareness to,” said Kelly Turner, director of the PFQC, the advocacy arm of The VGM Group. “We are committed to making sure that beneficiaries understand the position that providers are being put in and what it means for them and getting the right equipment.”

    PFQC kicked off its efforts in January by releasing an eight-minute video featuring several patients of Mobility Medical, a Dallas-based provider that is currently appealing denials for up to 80 patients.

    Turner says the access issues created by audits should be an easier story to tell than the issues created by competitive bidding.

    “We still fight, but competitive bidding is hard to explain,” she said. “With audits, you look at the individual and understand that their situation hasn’t changed. It’s visually impactful. They’re not getting any better. Yet, they’re still being denied.”

    One of the patients featured in the video is Phillip. He was denied on a technicality: His physician forgot to include a sentence in her notes indicating that she had referred him to a seating specialist in her clinic.

    “Twenty-eight years in a wheelchair and I’ve never had an issue until now,” he says in the video.

    Turner hopes the video, which is viewable and shareable on YouTube, will get in the right hands of people in Congress.

    “We want them to tell us, ‘Why would this person not qualify for a wheelchair?’” she said.


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    01/31/2014
    HME News Staff

    NEW YORK – The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has denied Rotech’s protest that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) unreasonably ignored recent, relevant information when it decided Rotech wasn’t financially fit to win contracts to supply veterans with home oxygen equipment, Law360 reports. The VA contended that Rotech, which entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in April, didn’t qualify as a “responsible contractor,” according to the story. The VA’s contracting officer based the determination on a Dun & Bradstreet report from June that placed Rotech in the highest risk category, and on a May statement that the company marketed itself for sale, according to the GAO report. The VA awarded the contested contracts, worth $42 million, to Norco, Care Medical Equipment and Apria.

    Medicaid could have saved 23% by using bid pricing

    BALTIMORE – State Medicaid programs could have saved 23%, or $62 million, if they had paid the median competitive bidding rates for incontinence supplies in 2012, according to a report from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). An added bonus, the OIG states: increased beneficiary access, increased product quality and program control. “However, states reported encountering initial challenges with their competitive bidding programs, and six states attempted to establish competitive bidding but did not fully implement it,” the OIG states. Overall, state Medicaid programs spent $266 million on nine types of disposable incontinence supplies, the OIG found.

    Hoveround lays off 20 workers

    SARASOTA, Fla. – Power-wheelchair provider Hoveround has laid off 20 workers from its headquarters, reducing its work force here to 294, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The company blamed competitive bidding for the layoffs, saying the program has forced it to “streamline customer calls,” according to the story. As part of competitive bidding, Hoveround received contracts in 85% of its market areas, but it was forced to accept a reduction in reimbursement of 47%. “We have to become more efficient, or die,” CEO Tom Kruse told the Herald-Tribune.

    Medicare fraud efforts pay off

    WASHINGTON – The Medicare Strike Force set record numbers for healthcare prosecutions last year, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Jan. 27. The Strike Force, a partnership between the DOJ and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), filed 137 cases, charged 345 individuals and secured 234 guilty pleas in fiscal year 2013. Its work also resulted in 46 jury trial convictions. Since its inception in 2007, the Strike Force has charged more than 1,700 defendants representing more than $5.5 billion in claims. It currently operates in Baton Rouge, La.; Brooklyn, N.Y.; Chicago; Dallas; Detroit; Houston; Los Angeles; Miami; and Tampa, Fla. A recent report by the Office of Inspector General found that for every $1 spent by the DOJ and HHS to fight healthcare fraud, the U.S. Treasury and the Medicare Trust Fund receives $8.

    CMS repairs web glitch

    NASHVILLE, Tenn. – CMS has corrected an issue in the DME MAC claim system that had been affecting processing, CGS said in a Jan. 24 bulletin. Claims are now being processed using ordering/referring physician data from PECOS, according to the statement. Any claims incorrectly denied because of the problem will be reprocessed automatically, CGS said. In addition, the myCGS web portal and Jurisdiction C IVR are assessing the corrected ordering/referring physician file, according to the bulletin.

    Inadequate documentation behind high power wheelchair denial rate

    INDIANAPOLIS - National Government Services denied 79.8% of power wheelchair claims between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31 because paperwork failed to demonstrate beneficiaries’ needs, according to a recent bulletin. The Jurisdiction B DME MAC reviewed 613 claims in a prepayment review and found most were denied because face-to-face documentation failed to prove: a manual wheelchair was insufficient; that the beneficiary’s mobility limitations required a power device; or why the power-operated vehicle would not meet the beneficiary’s needs in the home, according to the bulletin. Others were denied because they did not show the beneficiary was unable to propel a manual chair.

    Barbara Rogers: Industry remembers advocate

    SAN DIEGO – Barbara Rogers, president and CEO of the National Emphysema/COPD Association, passed away Dec. 7. An appointee to the first CMS Program Advisory and Oversight Committee on the bidding program, Rogers supported portable oxygen technology, advocated for respiratory patients and encouraged them to get involved, too, AAHomecare said in a recent bulletin. “We have lost a great industry advocate who fought for freedom of choice for oxygen patients,” said Tom Ryan, AAHomecare president and CEO, in the bulletin. 

    New device alleviates COPD symptoms

    LONDON – Researchers at London’s Western University have tested the Aerobika Oscillating Positive Expiratory Pressure Therapy System and say it improves COPD therapy, reducing breathlessness in patients, product developers say. The device helped study participants more easily move mucus out of their lungs, according to developer Trudell Medical International. “Drug treatment is often the preferred method, but may not be completely effective in achieving adequate airway clearance,” said Trudell CEO Mitch Baran, in a release. “Each patient’s COPD, be it chronic bronchitis, emphysema or any other lung disease, is unique and may need a variety of therapies.” The product has regulatory approval in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Europe.

    VGM ready to charge on audits

    WASHINGTON – The VGM Group is urging providers to attend the Feb. 12 Office of Medicare Hearings and Appeals’ Medicare Appellants Forum and has reserved a block of hotel rooms for attendees at the Embassy Suites in Crystal City. VGM will host a meeting the night of Feb. 12 to discuss the forum and plans for the next day. VGM will live-tweet the forum. Follow at #VGMAuditMadness. 

    Registration opens for CRT event

    EAST AMHURST, N.Y. – Registration is open for the 2014 National CRT Leadership and Advocacy Conference, to be held April 29-May 1 in Arlington, Va. Hosted by NCART and NRRTS, the event draws together complex rehab stakeholders for education, networking and advocacy. FMI: http://www.nrrts.org/events/national-crt-leadership-and-advocacy-confere...

    Moneyline: Roscoe, Prism Medical, Masimo

    Roscoe Medical has acquired Revolution Mobility. The deal will allow Roscoe to expand its retail offerings…Prism Medical’s board of directors approved a dividend of $0.08 per common share, payable on March 3 to shareholders of record on Feb. 21, the company announced Jan. 28…Masimo will release its financial results for the fourth quarter and full year 2013 during a Feb. 13 conference call.

    Short takes

    Chattanooga, Tenn.-based National Seating & Mobility kicked off a company-wide engagement tour Jan. 29. Chief operating officer Sandi Schwartz Neiman will visit company branches across the U.S….Honesdale, Pa.-based Wayne Health Pharmacy and Medical Equipment is hosting an official opening of its new retail store Feb. 14, offering health presentations, foot screenings and information on breathing devices…New Berlin, Wis.-based Home Care Medical is kicking off its Gold-Silver-Bronze Giveaway promotion just in time for the Winter Olympics, it announced in a Jan. 25 release. Through Feb. 28, customers can enter to win gold, silver or bronze prizes…GF Health Products now has a bi-dimensional fiber optic laser cutting system in its Fond Du Lac, Wis., facility, the company announced Jan. 27. The facility, where GF manufactures its Patriot Homecare Bed, is already home to a fiber optic laser tube cutting system

    People news: David Baxter, Ann Fabry

    David Baxter is the new vice president of marketing at Harmar, the company announced Jan. 30. With 18 years of experience, Baxter will lead new product development, market research and marketing communications for the accessibility and mobility manufacturer … Home Care Medical has promoted Ann Fabry to chief financial officer and vice president of finance and operations. Fabry will oversee supply, including finance, purchasing and operations; seek new product and vendor opportunities and possible partnerships; and guide strategic planning.


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  • 02/04/14--10:41: OIG outlines work plan
  • 02/04/2014
    HME News Staff

    WASHINGTON – The Office of Inspector General (OIG) has several new HME-related projects in the works for 2014, including a review of the reasonableness of the Medicare fee schedule.

    In its recently released 2014 Work Plan, the OIG says it will review the reasonableness of the Medicare fee schedule for certain HME, including commode chairs, folding walkers and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulators. It will compare what Medicare pays for those items with what non-Medicare payers, such as private insurance companies and Veterans Affairs, pay.

    Other new HME-related projects in the work plan:

    •    a review of the potential savings that can be achieved by Medicare if certain power mobility devices (PMDs) are rented over a 13-month period rather than acquired through a lump-sum purchase;

    •    a review of the market share of different types of diabetic testing strips immediately following the implementation of the national mail-order program;

    •    a review of Medicare Part B payments for PMDs to determine whether or not the requirements for a face-to-face examination were met; and

    •    a review of Medicare Part B payments for nebulizer machines and related drugs to determine whether or not claims were medically necessary and met requirements.

    The OIG also lists in the work plan several HME-related projects in progress, including:

    •    a review of the reasonableness of Medicare reimbursement rates for parenteral nutrition compared to amounts paid by other payers;

    •    a review of the process CMS used to conduct competitive bidding and to make subsequent pricing determinations as part of Round 1 and Round 2 of the program;

    •    a review of Medicare Part B payments for suppliers of PMDs to determine whether or not such payments met requirements;

    •    a review of Medicare Part B payments for claims for lower limb prosthetics to determine whether the requirements of CMS’s Benefits Policy Manual were met;

    •    a review of claims for frequently replaced supplies for CPAP and RAD devices to determine whether or not medical necessity, frequency and other Medicare requirements are met;

    •    a review of Medicare Part B payments for home blood glucose test strips and lancet supplies to determine their appropriateness; and

    •    a review of Medicare’s claims processing edits designed to prevent payment to multiple suppliers of home blood glucose test strips and lancets to determine whether or not they are effective in preventing inappropriate payments.


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  • 02/06/14--09:33: Invacare’s sales take hit
  • Company blames consent decree, lack of new products
    02/06/2014
    HME News Staff

    ELYRIA, Ohio – Invacare’s net sales for the year ended Dec. 31 fell 5.6% to $1.35 billion, the company has announced.

    Net sales for the fourth quarter were $334 million, a 5.6% decrease compared to the same period in 2012.

    Invacare blamed its consent decree with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in part, for its performance. It estimates net sales of products made at its Taylor Street manufacturing facility were $11.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2013, versus $32.8 million in the same period in 2012.

    “The excellent performance in Europe was more than offset by the financial results of our remaining three business segments, which struggled primarily as a result of the company’s consent decree with the United States Food and Drug Administration, lack of significant new product introductions and unfavorable sales mix,” said Gerald Blouch, president and CEO, in a statement.

    Net sales for the North America/HME segment were $144.8 million for the fourth quarter, a 12.5% decrease from $165.6 million in the same period the previous year. Net sales fell 12.4% to $607.1 million in 2013, compared to $692.7 million in 2012.


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    02/07/2014
    Theresa Flaherty

    WASHINGTON – A small but determined group of HME stakeholders will travel to Capitol Hill this week to take on audits.

    “We don’t want to sit back and take it anymore,” said Lisa Willis, director of compliance for Jasper, Ala.-based Med-South. “We are at the point where you shut down the ALJs, and they’ve dragged their feet on all of the other audit (problems).”

    The Office of Medicare Hearings and Appeals (OMHA) will host a daylong forum Feb. 12 to discuss an increased workload that has resulted in a backlog of some 460,000 appeals. In a Dec. 31 memo, the chief ALJ announced it would suspend assignment of hearings for appeals going back to July 15, 2013, for as long as two years.

    This, despite a law that states providers that file an appeal must receive a decision within 90 days.

    “Where in America do you have an appeal process where the government takes money and there’s (no recourse)?” said John Gallagher, vice president of government relations for The VGM Group. 

    Gallagher will lead a group of about 15 providers to the Hill. They will attend Wednesday’s forum and live tweet using the hash tag #VGMAuditMadness. On Thursday, they will meet with key members of Congress, including members of the Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce and Senate Finance committees. Among their asks: suspend audits immediately, and stop recoupments on current claims denials that are waiting for an ALJ hearing.

    “I recognize that they are shorthanded but the guidelines clearly state that there’s a time limit,” said Willis.

    CMS, in an email to HME News, said that the agency “does not forsee halting audits.”


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    02/07/2014
    Theresa Flaherty

    BALTIMORE – CMS began enforcing the written order prior to delivery (WOPD) requirement on Jan. 1, and providers, for the most part, say they’re on top if it.

    “We started moving ahead with that last July because we knew it was coming,” said Carter Fuller, vice president of business development for Chattanooga, Tenn.-based Professional Respiratory and Medical. “It was all about educating out in the community and getting in front of it.”

    CMS in December announced that it would begin enforcing the WOPD requirement, part of CMS’s face-to-face rule, on Jan. 1. The agency has twice delayed enforcement of the face-to-face rule to give providers more time to establish processes, but it expects to enforce the rule some time in 2014.

    A major motivating factor in getting onboard with the WOPD requirement: audits. Gone are the days of providers fearing they will lose referrals to a competitor who isn’t asking for lots of documentation.

    “For the most part, everybody’s singing the same story,” said Doug Coleman, CEO of Major Medical Supply in Fort Collins, Colo. “Because of audits, people are more quick to adapt to following the rules.”

    Providers may be on top of things, but AAHomecare still seeks clarification from CMS on several issues. Chief among those: If the WOPD, which has far more elements than a dispensing order, is missing a piece of information like the physician’s NPI number and it’s not caught until after the equipment is delivered, does the provider have any recourse to fix it?

    “It doesn’t make any sense that if I deliver a bed and there’s something wrong with the order, then the patient has to pay for the entire rental or another provider has to come in,” said Kim Brummett, the association’s senior director of regulatory affairs. “If you’ve already delivered it, you can’t fix the WOPD.”

    As to the upcoming enforcement of the face-to-face rule, it’s anyone’s guess how smoothly that will go. One lingering concern is that, although nurse practitioners and physician assistants (PAs) may perform the face-to-face exam, only a physician can sign off on it. That could create access issues, particularly in rural areas, say providers.

    “There’s not enough doctors at our rural health clinic to see all the people, so we’ve got nurse practitioners and PAs seeing patients,” said Glenn Steinke, owner of Airway Medical in Bishop, Calif.


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  • 02/07/14--11:35: OIG outlines work plan
  • 02/07/2014
    HME News Staff

    WASHINGTON – The Office of Inspector General (OIG) has several new HME-related projects in the works for 2014, including a review of the reasonableness of the Medicare fee schedule.

    In its recently released 2014 Work Plan, the OIG says it will review the reasonableness of the Medicare fee schedule for certain HME, including commode chairs, folding walkers and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulators. It will compare what Medicare pays for those items with what non-Medicare payers, such as private insurance companies and Veterans Affairs, pay.

    Other new HME-related projects in the work plan:

    • a review of the potential savings that can be achieved by Medicare if certain power mobility devices (PMDs) are rented over a 13-month period rather than acquired through a lump-sum purchase;

    • a review of the market share of different types of diabetic testing strips immediately following the implementation of the national mail-order program;

    • a review of Medicare Part B payments for PMDs to determine whether or not the requirements for a face-to-face examination were met; and

    • a review of Medicare Part B payments for nebulizer machines and related drugs to determine whether or not claims were medically necessary and met requirements.

    The OIG also lists in the work plan several HME-related projects in progress, including:

    • a review of the reasonableness of Medicare reimbursement rates for parenteral nutrition compared to amounts paid by other payers;

    • a review of the process CMS used to conduct competitive bidding and to make subsequent pricing determinations as part of Round 1 and Round 2 of the program;

    • a review of Medicare Part B payments for suppliers of PMDs to determine whether or not such payments met requirements;

    • a review of Medicare Part B payments for claims for lower limb prosthetics to determine whether the requirements of CMS’s Benefits Policy Manual were met; 

    • a review of claims for frequently replaced supplies for CPAP and RAD devices to determine whether or not medical necessity, frequency and other Medicare requirements are met;

    • a review of Medicare Part B payments for home blood glucose test strips and lancet supplies to determine their appropriateness; and

    • a review of Medicare’s claims processing edits designed to prevent payment to multiple suppliers of home blood glucose test strips and lancets to determine whether or not they are effective in preventing inappropriate payments.


    0 0

    02/07/2014
    HME News Staff

    WASHINGTON – The number of beneficiaries receiving PAP devices for a one-year time period grew 13%, while the total number of beneficiaries receiving all DMEPOS items during the same period fell 1%, according to a recently released comparative billing report. Compiled by eGlobal Tech and Palmetto GBA, the report used data from claims processed by the DME MACs between July 2012 and June 2013. They also found allowed charges on PAP devices rose 23%, when allowed charges for all DMEPOS items fell by 2%. The report was designed to help suppliers ensure they use correct coding when billing for PAP devices and accessories. It emphasized trends in allowed charges for PAP devices and accessories, the number of PAP devices and accessories per beneficiary, and the use of more expensive PAP devices and accessories. CMS called for the report because proper billing for PAP devices and accessories has been identified as a risk area within the Medicare program.

    Inogen sets IPO terms

    GOLETA, Calif. – Inogen hopes to raise $75 million in its IPO by offering 4.4 million shares—20% insider—at $16 to $18 per share, according to news reports. At the midpoint of its proposed price range, its fully diluted market value would be $342 million, Renaissance Capital reports. For the 12 months ended Sept. 30, 2013, the portable oxygen concentrator manufacturer/provider reported $70 million in sales. Inogen filed for the IPO in November. It plans to trade on the NASDAQ under the symbol INGN. J.P. Morgan is the bookrunner. 

    Acquisition gives investment firm global footprint

    CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – PBM Capital Group, a private investment firm that owns Human Design Capital (HDM), maker of the recently released Z1 CPAP machine, has acquired Breas, a Swedish maker of home respiratory ventilators and sleep apnea products. PBM Capital Group will integrate Breas into HDM. Breas, a subsidiary of General Electric Company, sells its products in more than 40 countries through a global network of distributors. “We acquired Breas because it is a logical fit with our growing HDM sleep apnea business,” stated Paul Manning, CEO of PBM Capital Group, in a release. “The Breas acquisition opens the door to global distribution channels and gives us immediate access to an established line of home care ventilators backed by a strong IP portfolio.” The combined companies will extend their reach into the global home respiratory products market by developing new products or acquiring additional respiratory product companies, according to the release. Breas, which operates a 30,000-square foot manufacturing/office facility in Gothenburg, Sweden, and employs more than 100 in nine countries, expects to introduce its Vivo 50 ventilator in the United States this quarter. HDM launched its first product, the Z1 CPAP machine, in November 2013, and has more products in the pipeline. The Z1, which is small, lightweight and has the option of an integrated battery, has been “selling ahead of plan,” according to the release.

    Invacare amends credit agreement

    ELYRIA, Ohio – Invacare has amended its credit agreement, giving the company more flexibility on its maximum leverage ratio financial covenant through Sept. 30, 2014, according to an announcement. Per the agreement, which went into effect Jan. 31, Invacare’s maximum leverage ratio for the first three quarters of 2014 has been increased. The agreement also allows the company to add back to EBITDA up to $20 million for one-time cash restructuring charges, an increase of $5 million from the previous agreement. Invacare has also reduced its revolving credit facility to $100 million from $250 million through the October 2015 maturity date of the facility. “The company is actively managing its capital structure and reducing debt levels as we work through the phase of the consent decree with the United States Food and Drug Administration,” said Gerald Blouch, president and CEO, in the release. “Over the first nine months of 2013, we reduced our debt outstanding by $179.2 million to a total debt outstanding of $58.9 million as of Sept. 30, 2013. We are confident that we will successfully exit this challenging period and begin to regain our custom power wheelchair market share.”

    Use of Auto-PAP devices expected to soar, study finds

    LONDON – U.S. shipments of auto-positive airway pressure (Auto-PAP) devices will grow 70% by 2017, according to an IHS Technology report released Feb. 6. Auto-PAP shipments should grow at a CAGR of 14.2% over four years, surpassing shipments of CPAP machines by 2015, according to the report. "Healthcare expenditures in the U.S. for sleep apnea have reached unsustainable levels," said Nicola Goatman, medical devices and healthcare IT analyst at IHS. "Diagnosis through sleep laboratories and therapy using a CPAP system are no longer the most cost-effective solution to an ever-worsening problem." Auto-PAP devices automatically change pressure in response to patients’ needs, so therapists don’t have to visit as frequently to adjust machines as patients’ conditions change, the report says. 

    AxelaCare acquires ARC Infusion

    LENEXA, Kan. – AxelaCare, a specialty home infusion provider, has acquired Los Angeles-based ARC Infusion, bringing its number of total pharmacies to 15, according to a release. “ARC Infusion is a great addition for us as it builds our presence in California in both the IG and acute home infusion markets” said Ted Kramm, AxelaCare CEO, in the release. “We are continuing to actively pursue acquisitions in California, as well as other states, to increase our geographic and product line diversification.” AxelaCare now has four pharmacies in California. In addition to California, its growing coverage includes Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon and Pennsylvania. The management and staff at ARC are expected to remain with the company. This isn’t the first acquisition for AxelaCare this year: It acquired SCP Specialty Infusion last month.

    PE firm invests in van conversion company

    PHOENIX – Evergreen Pacific Partners, a Seattle-based private equity firm, has purchased a majority stake in Vantage Mobility International (VMI), according to a Feb. 4 news release. Doug Eaton, VMI CEO, and Tim Barone, CFO, have retained significant stakes in VMI and will continue to lead operations. They will use new investment capital to expand to meet growing demand for wheelchair accessible vehicles, according to the release. “Evergreen’s involvement in VMI will give us the resources to help even more people,” said Eaton. “This relationship will allow us to invest in new manufacturing technologies that will lower our costs as we continually improve our world-class quality.” VMI offers minivan and full-size van conversions, platform lifts, scooter and wheelchair lifts, and transfer seats. Evergreen Pacific Partners manages two funds totaling $700 million. It invests in traditional buyouts, management-led buyouts and growth equity investments involving traditional middle-market companies in the western U.S. and Canada.

    Ottobock names new ambassador

    MINNEAPOLIS – Keith Gabel, a member of the first-ever U.S. Para Snowboard team and a below-knee amputee, has been named Ottobock Ambassador, the company said Feb. 5. As ambassador, Gabel, who is ranked No. 1 in the world in his sport, will serve as a role model for young athletes with disabilities. “Hiking, wakeboarding, downhill and cross country mountain biking, rock climbing, camping, fishing, cliff diving, skateboarding and snowboarding are just a few of my favorite activities," Gabel said, in the release. "With that in mind, I am proud to partner with Ottobock for multiple reasons, but mainly because they build innovative and quality products that withstand the kind of beating an active amputee such as myself can, and will, put it through." Among Gabel’s accomplishments: He won gold at the X-Games in Para Snowboard Cross, he is a seven-time World Cup Medalist and he was the first amputee to hit a 65-foot plus jump in international competition. "Keith's myriad of activities and the feedback he can give us regarding the performance of the Ottobock products he uses will greatly contribute to how we reach and support people with limb loss around the world,” said Ottobock Spokeswoman Karen Lundquist. 

    Abbott plans pediatric tube feeding webinar

    ABBOTT PARK, Ill. – Abbott is offering a Feb. 20 webinar on pediatric tube feeding for HME providers to gain insight to help them improve service to home enteral patients. Four families will participate in the webinar, sharing their experiences and offering information about HME suppliers, according to a release. The webinar will be recorded for those not available to tune in Feb. 20 at 3 p.m. EST.

    DeVilbiss distributes Sleepnet masks in Canada

    SOMERSET, Pa. – DeVilbiss Healthcare is now the exclusive distributor of Sleepnet sleep apnea masks in Canada, according to a Feb. 5 release. The deal went into effect immediately. “It is important for patients to have options when considering the best interface for their needs, particularly in the pediatric area, and partnering with an innovative company like Sleepnet Corporation can mean endless opportunity for our providers and their patients,” said Wally Haddick, vice president of sales in Canada and Latin America, in the release. Sleepnet soft shell masks allow users to shape and mold the frame for fit and seal, according to the release.

    Passy-Muir honors Pediatric Home Service

    ST. PAUL, Minn. – Passy-Muir, maker of speaking valves for tracheostomy and ventilator patients, has named Pediatric Home Service a Center of Excellence, according to a Feb. 4 release. The award recognizes 10 facilities nationwide that use the Passy-Muir valve as a standard of care. To qualify for the award, PHS had to meet several criteria regarding the use of the valve. “Education, knowledge, and a constant strive for excellence is extremely important to everyone at PHS, because it means we can provide the very best for our medically-complex patients,” says Bruce Estrem, PHS clinical education manager, in the release. “Being named a Center of Excellence demonstrates our commitment to providing that highest level of care and will potentially allow us to serve as a Passy-Muir Valve resource for others.”

    Sigvaris provides docs with education tool

    PEACHTREE CITY, Ga. – Sigvaris has released an iPad app that helps doctors visually explain the circulatory system and potential problems, such as blood clots, spider and varicose veins, swelling and ulcers. Already in use at vascular clinics and medical offices, the app also shows how compression stockings help to improve circulation. “When you can show patients how a blood clot forms or the exact veins that have been affected by venous insufficiency, it gives them a much clearer understanding about what is happening within their body,” said physician Ariel Soffer in a release. The free app is available in English, Portuguese, German and French.

    FAA OKs three concentrators for inflight use

    WASHINGTON – The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has given its stamp of approval for three more portable oxygen concentrators to be used on planes. Newly authorized are SeQual Technologies’ eQuinox Moxel 4000, Oxywell Model 4000 and VBOX Trooper, according to a Feb. 5 release from the FAA. Patients may now bring 23 models of oxygen concentrators on airplanes. Despite the stamp of approval, the Department of Transportation “strongly encourages airlines to voluntarily allow the inflight use of oxygen concentrators even if not labeled as FAA-approved because they pose no safety danger,” according to the release.

    Perry Home Medical Supply closes doors

    PRINCETON, Ill. – Perry Memorial Hospital is closing the Perry Home Medical Supply store, citing changes in Medicare reimbursement, according to news reports. “Medicare has reduced what they are willing to pay for, and, secondly, if you bill for something and they don’t think you did it right, then you have to send (the money) back to them,” said President and CEO Rex Conger. Conger said changes in regulations and billing requirements for Medicare and commercial insurance companies make it hard for small HME stores. Perry Home Medical Supply will eliminate inventory and services before its last day, June 1. 

    BOC, MED to highlight certification at Medtrade Spring

    OWINGS MILLS, Md. – The Board of Certification/Accreditation (BOC) and The MED Group are teaming up to present a workshop on the Durable Medical Equipment Specialist (CDME) certification at Medtrade Spring. Topics covered will include the value of the certification and how to market it. Participants may sit for the CDME exam during the March 10-12 event. To earn the CDME, participants show a broad understanding of the industry and knowledge of products, including oxygen, transfer systems, enteral supplies and wound care, according to the release.

    BioScrip sells home health business

    ELMSFORD, N.Y. – BioScrip plans to sell its home health business, Deaconess HomeCare, to LHC Group for $60 million in cash, the company announced Feb. 3. BioScrip will turn its focus to its home infusion platform and use proceeds from the sale to pay down debt, according to a release. “This transaction will enhance BioScrip's financial flexibility to further benefit from the scale we built through our three recent infusion acquisitions, which have collectively deepened our strong clinical capabilities and customer relationships and provided us with a solid foundation from which to grow,” said Rick Smith, president and CEO. BioScrip picked up infusion providers InfuScience in 2012, and HomeChoice Partners and Care Point Partners in 2013.

    Home healthcare market to hit $130.4B in 2017, report says

    DUBLIN – The North American home healthcare market, valued at $90.9 billion in 2012, is expected to grow to $130.4 billion by 2017, according to a new Research and Markets report. Growth is fueled by the move from hospitals to home care, as well as innovation, availability, an aging population and a growing number of people with chronic diseases, the report said. The U.S. is expected to continue to dominate the North American home healthcare market over the next five years, the report said. “However, cuts in Medicare payments to home health agencies and risk to the safety of home healthcare workers are factors limiting the growth of this market,” it states. The market includes testing, screening and monitoring devices; therapeutic equipment; mobility products; and nutrition products. 

    People news

    Brent Shafer has been named CEO of Philips North America. Shafer, previously CEO of Philips Home Healthcare Solutions, is responsible for strengthening the company’s entrepreneurship, and growing revenue and market share in the U.S. and Canada. He will report directly to Royal Philips CEO Frans van Houten. Shafer succeeds Greg Sebasky, who retired on Feb. 3…Kay Ellen Koch has been named Invacare’s clinical rehab education manager. With more than 30 years seating and wheeled mobility experience, Koch, who became an ATP in 1996, has focused on pediatrics. She most recently worked in marketing education, accreditation and training for Mobility Designs… John Phillips, senior marketing and training manager with Ottobock, has earned Seating and Mobility Specialist Certification from the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America. He is one of 120 in North America to be awarded the certification.

     


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    02/07/2014
    HME News Staff

    WASHINGTON – The number of beneficiaries receiving PAP devices for a one-year time period grew 13%, while the total number of beneficiaries receiving all DMEPOS items during the same period fell 1%, according to a recently released comparative billing report.

    Compiled by eGlobal Tech and Palmetto GBA, the report used data from claims processed by the DME MACs between July 2012 and June 2013. They also found allowed charges on PAP devices rose 23%, when allowed charges for all DMEPOS items fell by 2%.

    The report was designed to help suppliers ensure they use correct coding when billing for PAP devices and accessories. It emphasized trends in allowed charges for PAP devices and accessories, the number of PAP devices and accessories per beneficiary, and the use of more expensive PAP devices and accessories.

    CMS called for the report because proper billing for PAP devices and accessories has been identified as a risk area within the Medicare program.


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    02/12/2014
    HME News Staff

    WILMINGTON, Del. – A bankruptcy judge has disallowed several whistleblower claims in Liberty Medical Supply’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy case.

    Former employees Deborah Loveland and Lucas Matheny had alleged that Liberty received millions in overpayments from Medicare and Medicaid, which it never repaid, and covered up it all up by tampering with data, according to Law360.

    U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Peter Walsh ruled that Loveland and Matheny provided no proof of a false record or statement, no proof that Liberty had any knowledge of false records and no proof that Liberty had circumvented monetary obligations to the government.

    Despite receiving more than 4 million documents, database information and witness depositions, “their claims remain unsubstantiated,” wrote the judge.

    Liberty, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February 2013, had asked the court in October to render a summary judgment on the whistleblower claims, which were filed in Florida in 2008.

     

     


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