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Power soccer takes center stage

HME News - Fri, 10/24/2014 - 14:05
10/24/2014HME News Staff

ATLANTA – The Medtrade show floor served as a makeshift soccer field on Wednesday as Atlanta power soccer teams the Strikers and Sting faced off in an exhibition game.

Developed in France in the 1970s, power soccer is the only major sport involving power chairs and has been gaining momentum since the founding of the United States Power Soccer Association in 2006, says association president Dominic Russo. The US power soccer league has grown to 60 teams and Russo hopes to reach 70 going forward.

Like any sport, power soccer has rules to maintain equipment consistency, competitive fairness and player safety. Open to men and women of all ages, the sport uses a 13-inch soccer ball and follows the basic soccer format.

“The goal really isn’t about sports—it’s about life learning experiences,” Russo said.

Wayne Merdinger, president of MK Battery, said his company is sponsored the event because “the HME industry needs to be aware of this sport and get involved with it.”

MK Battery is also the official battery of the organization.

Medtrade officials were also happy to help out, says Kevin Gaffney, show director.

“Medtrade, by it’s very nature, tend to be an ‘industry’ show, but the power soccer exhibition is a great way for attendees to connect with patients and/or power wheelchair users who are the whole reason we are in business,” he said.

The USPSA has received Paralympic recognition and Russo hopes that it will eventually become an official sport of the games. Meanwhile, power soccer has its own version of the World Cup, with teams from 18 countries competing.

For players such as 12-year veteran Dustin Swafford, it offers a chance to “to travel, meet people and compete. I really love to compete,” he said.

“Stand Up” pays off

HME News - Wed, 10/22/2014 - 15:10
10/22/2014HME News Staff

ATLANTA – AAHomecare’s “Stand Up for Homecare” annual reception raised more than $50,000.

"To raise thousands of dollars for great organizations out there working with our patients is a great achievement in an industry where everyone is facing a struggle,” said Tom Ryan, President and CEO of AAHomecare. “This goes to show how giving this HME industry is; we’re always looking out for one another.”

The groups included the American Association of People with Disabilities, the United Spinal Associations, Paralyzed Veterans of America and AAHomecare’s Save My Medical Supplies.

More than 300 HME industry leaders attended the Tuesday night event at the Atlanta Metro Chamber. Stand Up originally began as a way to help providers affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The campaign has since evolved and is currently focused on building a positive perception of the HME industry in Washington as well as promoting public education on the regulatory problems it faces.

AAHomecare also awarded Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations at Invacare Corporation and Joe Mills, chief executive officer of Advanced Homecare with the Homecare Champion Award for their leadership in the HME industry.

Merger casts ‘positive’ light on industry

HME News - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 12:29
10/17/2014Theresa Flaherty

ORLANDO – News of a merger between AeroCare and MergeWorthRx put a spring into the step of HME industry analysts.

“This a positive sign for the industry,” said Rick Glass, president of Steven Richards & Associates. 

In the Oct. 15 announcement, AeroCare, which has been backed by private equity firm Ferrer Freeman & Company since its inception in 2002, and MergeWorthRx, a special purpose acquisition company with a healthcare focus, said they have agreed to an all-stock merger. MergeWorthRx will issue approximately 11.3 million new shares and .5 million options to existing AeroCare stockholders, according to a press release. Those stockholders will own 53% of the company, and will have the right to receive up to $30 million of additional shares of MergeWorthRx common stock.

“This gives them another avenue for growth, rather than relying on (their own) financial capacity,” said Don Davis, president of Duckridge Advisors. “They seem to have a nice business plan and they are bullish on our industry.”

AeroCare has been steadily rolling up HME companies—23 in 2013 alone—and plans to growth through further acquisitions as well as organically.

AeroCare, which has annual revenues of $150 million, has grown at an annual compounded rate of 31%, according to the release. The provider offers respiratory products and services to more than 150,000 patients through 175 locations in 20 U.S. states. 

“Respiratory continues to be the part of HME that people view as scalable and can leave them to a successful model going forward,” said Glass. “MergeWorthRx is stepping up and saying, ‘We’ve got a platform we think know how to be successful with at today’s reimbursement levels and we want to take advantage of that.”

As to whether the overhang of another round of competitive bidding is a concern? AeroCare holds multiple competitive bidding contracts—mainly for CPAP and oxygen—but an official total was unavailable at press time.

“How much lower are the prices going to go?” said Davis. “That’s problematic for everybody but I think there’s a sense that there is still profit margin out there, and there can still be one going forward.”

The deal is expected to close by the end of the year. The common stock will be listed on Nasdaq.

NewsPoll: Providers express optimism, pessimism

HME News - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 12:27
10/17/2014Theresa Flaherty

YARMOUTH, Maine – Come Nov. 4, HME providers say they will do their civic duty and vote. Whether they expect it to make a difference is another story.

“I feel like we have to vote to do our part, but I don’t see changes coming due to this election,” said Sandi Hall, of Tri-State Respiratory in Cleveland, Tenn. “It feels as if not enough senators and congressmen see the real picture.”

In a recent HME NewsPoll, nearly 100% of providers say they will vote; 65% say they expect the election outcomes to have an impact.

“I’m hopeful new members will shake things up and finally start passing legislation that not only improves our economy but shows CMS and other government agencies that we have to be smart,” said Lori Sears, owner of Active Home Medical Supply in Lapeer, Mich. “Just because you save Medicare Part B dollars doesn’t mean you’re saving CMS money overall.”

The other 45% of providers are feeling decidedly pessimistic about politics.

“I have never disliked our government more than I have the past four years,” said Michael Mayfield, of Signature Healthcare in Hunt Valley, Md. “Their inability to see the positive impact our industry has on healthcare costs is beyond comprehension.”

Providers rank the economy as their top concern (52%), followed by health care (38%) and industry-specific issues like audits and competitive bidding (29%). 

It’s important to keep pushing for change, say providers.

“We have to pursue them diligently with our issues before and after they are elected,” said one provider. “We have to remind them of the consequences of their bad public policy. I’ll vote Democratic and hope they behave like Democrats.”

Other providers say its time to put Republicans back in charge.

“If we don’t put all Republicans in office, we will be in deeper water than we are in now,” said one provider.

One thing is certain: The Affordable Care Act, which became law in 2010, remains unpopular with providers.

“If we cannot get Obamacare overturned, and get a handle on audits, our industry will continue to be adversely affected,” said one provider.


Turning Leaf ‘pioneers’ financing program

HME News - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 12:25

LEBANON, Ore. – The folks at A Turning Leaf Home Medical (ATL) don’t think a lack of cash in hand should prevent patients from getting needed equipment.

“What if people had the ability to just finance it?” said Kevin Crawford, who recently joined ATL as its operations and marketing manager. 

As it happens, a local credit union was developing a financing program this summer for home medical equipment purchases and offered ATL the chance to get onboard as “an early pioneer.”

Under the program, patients can apply for loans ranging from $500 to $25,000 at an 8% interest rate.

“You can’t even put down a credit card for 8%,” said Crawford.

The way the program works: ATL determines whether or not the customer is interested in the program—there’s a $5 fee to join the credit union—and helps him or her put together an equipment package. A CPAP package, for example, could include the device, a humidifier, accessories and battery packs. If a patient has private insurance, that’s factored in—some patients may only need a loan until they get reimbursed by their insurer. ATL helps complete the loan application and faxes it to the credit union for same-day approval. Once the loan is approved, the credit union cuts a check to ATL.

“It’s a way to say to the customer, ‘Let’s figure out what’s best for you,’ and we are able to put that deal together so they have the equipment they are looking for,” Crawford said. “I know it sounds car dealer-y, to say, ‘$5 today puts you in a scooter for $72 a month for 24 months,’ but why is that a bad thing?”

In fact, Crawford came to the HME industry from a car dealership. 

One major benefit to the loan program: The credit union renders its decision based on the applicant’s individual merit, not his or her credit scores, he says.

“A lot of our clients are not going to have good scores because of health issues,” Crawford said.

The new financing program comes at a busy time for ATL. In addition to opening a fourth location, it recently had several thousand patients “fall into its lap” when a local CPAP provider closed, says President/Owner Anne Turner. Previously locally owned, it was acquired by a national provider.

“Their business model of mailing things out and using call centers doesn’t work here in Oregon,” she said. “The communities are still used to one-on-one provider service.” 

Turner has hired several new employees to keep up with the influx.

“We have had the perfect storm, but what a storm it is,” she said. 

Retail award winners announced

HME News - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 12:24
10/17/2014HME News Staff

ATLANTA – Medtrade has announced five winners for this year’s Innovative HME Retail Product Awards.

The winners are Core Products, for its WiTouch Wireless TENS Unit; TheraPeaz for its TheraPeaz Hot/Cold Therapy; Golden Technologies, for its Shiatsu Lift Chair; Motivo, for its Motivo Tour (Walker); and SCA Personal Care for its TENA Skincare System.

Motivo is a first-time exhibitor at Medtrade, which takes place next week, Oct. 20-24, at the Georgia World Congress Center.

“Medtrade gives us a great opportunity to launch our all new Motivo Tour walker by connecting directly with the dealers and allowing them to touch and feel the innovation in person,” says Jeremy Knopow, co-founder.

The awards highlight a growing interest in retail-oriented items.

“Medtrade is the absolute best place to find solutions in this tough new HME world,” said Jim Greatorex, president of Portland, Maine-based Black Bear Medical. “Where else can you find new and alternative product offerings to off-set lost revenue?”

Greatorex will host an education session at the show on Wednesday, Oct. 22 from 9:15 to 10 a.m. Each winner will get five minutes to talk.

The products will be on display in the manufacturers’ individual booths as well as at the Ideas in Retail Display (booth 744). 

This retail awards were created in 2013.

In brief: Stakeholders meet with Rep. Price, 180 Medical recognized

HME News - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 12:22
10/17/2014HME News Staff

ATLANTA – Provider Todd Tyson, owner of Hi Tech Healthcare, and John Gallagher, vice president of government relations for The VGM Group, met with Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., Oct. 10 to urge his support for H.R. 5083, which would improve the audit process, and H.R. 4920, which would require binding bids. “We stressed the importance of the timing of adding language to legislation that may move through Congress this year because CMS is already beginning the registration Round 2 Rebid this fall, with actual bidding to begin in the winter,” said Tyson in a release. Price has supported the HME industry in the past. In 2013, he sponsored H.R. 1717, which would have replaced competitive bidding with a market-pricing program. The bill eventually reached 180 cosponsors. 

Littleton Home Care Supply acquired by local family

WILMINGTON, Ohio - Littleton Home Care Supply, Inc. has been acquired by local entrepreneurs, Robert and Cynthia Bevan. The full service retail store has been serving the HME needs of the Wilmington, Ohio area since 1979. “Our goal is to take the business to the next level by continuing to provide high-quality service while offering new products and skills for the community,” said the new operations manager, James Long. Duckridge Advisors served as the advisor for the Littleton family in the sale. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. 

180 Medical hailed as ‘best place to work’

OKLAHOMA CITY - 180 Medical has once again been named one of the best places to work in Oklahoma by Oklahoma City-based okc.BIZ and Best Companies Group. “Being named as one of the best places to work in Oklahoma for the fifth year says so much about our company and what we stand for, because it’s based on what our employees think and say about the work experience here,” said Sharon Hodnett, director of human resources at 180 Medical. Over the past two years, the provider has hired 120 employees and recently moved into a new 60,000-square-foot facility.

Dr. Comfort donates to American Diabetes Association

MILWAUKEE - Dr. Comfort will donate $10 to the American Diabetes Association (ADA) for every pair of athletic shoes sold from its newest Athletic Shoe line through the end of the year. “As a therapeutic footwear company, the fight against diabetes is very important to us,” said Product Manager Rob Heglin. The footwear manufacturer will also participate in several of the ADA’s “Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes” events.

VGM to hit the road

WATERLOO, Iowa – The VGM Group experts will tour 11 states in November and December with their new business seminar, “HME in 2015 and Beyond: The VGM Preparation Series.” The day-long seminars, co-sponsored by state associations, will cover Round 2 recompete strategies, 2016 U.S. regional single payment data, patient outcomes, and human resources management.

Short Takes

Retail medical supply store Med-Star Plus recently opened its doors in Burlington, N.C.…Mercy Medical Center – North Iowa and Mitchell County Regional Health Center have partnered to open Mitchell County Home Medical Shoppe, a local medical equipment store, in Osage, Iowa…In September, Keystone Medical Equipment opened its third store in Hometown, Pa. The store offers stairlifts, scooters, lift chairs, hospital beds, walkers, orthotics, diabetic supplies, oxygen, CPAP and supplies, nebulizers, TENS units, power chairs, wound care, wheelchairs and compression hosiery.

People news: Heinz, Nash, Estrella

EZ-Access has hired David Heinz as director of sales and Dale Nash as national sales manager to beef up its Home Health Care division. Both Heinz and Nash have more than 30 years of sales experience…Karyn Estrella, executive director of the Home Medical Equipment and Services Association of New England, was renewed as a certified association executive (CAE). Less than 5% of all association professionals have earned the CAE.


Retail award winners announced

HME News - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 14:42
10/16/2014HME News Staff

ATLANTA – Medtrade has announced five winners for this year’s Innovative HME Retail Product Awards.

The winners are Core Products, for its WiTouch Wireless TENS Unit; TheraPeaz for its TheraPeaz Hot/Cold Therapy; Golden Technologies, for its Shiatsu Lift Chair; Motivo, for its Motivo Tour (Walker); and SCA Personal Care for its TENA Skincare System.

Motivo is a first-time exhibitor at Medtrade, which takes place next week, Oct. 20-24, at the Georgia World Congress Center.

“Medtrade gives us a great opportunity to launch our all new Motivo Tour walker by connecting directly with the dealers and allowing them to touch and feel the innovation in person,” says Jeremy Knopow, co-founder.

The awards highlight a growing interest in retail-oriented items.

“Medtrade is the absolute best place to find solutions in this tough new HME world,” said Jim Greatorex, president of Portland, Maine-based Black Bear Medical. “Where else can you find new and alternative product offerings to off-set lost revenue?”

Greatorex will host an education session at the show on Wednesday, Oct. 22 from 9:15 to 10 a.m. Each winner will get five minutes to talk.

The products will be on display in the manufacturers’ individual booths as well as at the Ideas in Retail Display (booth 744). 

This retail awards were created in 2013.

AeroCare inks merger deal

HME News - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 12:36
10/15/2014HME News Staff

ORLANDO – AeroCare has merged with MergeWorthRx and will become a publicly traded company, it was announced today.

Under the terms of the agreement, MergeWorthRx, a special purpose acquisition company, will issue approximately 11.3 million new shares and .5 million options to existing AeroCare stockholders, according to a press release. Those stockholders will own 53% of the company, and will have the right to receive up to $30 million of additional shares of MergeWorthRx common stock.

"This is an exciting time for AeroCare,” stated Steve Griggs, CEO and founder. “The agreement with MergeWorthRx and AeroCare's emergence as a public company will increase our visibility in the market and provide the capital we will need to accelerate our growth and take further market share."

The provider plans to achieve growth through organic growth, strategic acquisitions and opening new locations. In 2013, AeroCare acquired 23 companies.

“We are eager to support the AeroCare management team as they execute on their strategic growth initiatives as a prime consolidator of this large, growing, and highly fragmented market," stated Stephen Cichy, MergeWorthRx’s cofounder, president and COO.

AeroCare was launched in 2002 and has grown at an annual compounded rate of 31%. The provider offers respiratory products and services to more than 150,000 patients through 175 locations in 20 U.S. states. AeroCare generates about $150 million in annual revenues, according to the release.

The deal is expected to close by the end of 2014.

Post-acute care: Where do you stand?

HME News - Fri, 10/10/2014 - 13:32
10/10/2014Liz Beaulieu

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – As the paradigm in health care shifts, Managed Health Care Associates (MHA), the parent company of The MED Group, wants to make sure its post-acute care provider members, including those in HME, are armed with the information they need to make the right business decisions.

That’s one reason why MHA teamed up with Leavitt Partners this month to publish an 11-page report, “The Right Care for the Right Cost: Post-Acute Care and the Triple Aim,” that discusses: What does post-acute care entail; why do accountable care organizations (ACOs) need to consider partnerships with post-acute care providers; and how do these partnerships fit into evolving healthcare models?

“We wanted to get everyone talking,” said Michelle Templin, vice president of strategic business development for MHA. “For post-acute providers, we wanted them to look to see where they stand in the spectrum.”

Starting from square one

Initially, there was little knowledge—let alone recognition— among ACOs of the role of post-acute providers, Templin says.

“When we started meeting with hospitals, they had no idea,” she said. “So we had to step back and do some education.”

ACOs are quickly trying to get up to speed, though, Templin says.

“They’re starting to look at readmissions and they’re realizing that these are frail and elderly patients,” she said. “They’re realizing there’s an opportunity for coordinated care and delivery.”

Flexing your muscles

No ACO is created equally, especially at this still early phase, so as post-acute care providers look to see what role they can play in this new paradigm, they need to be flexible, Templin says.

“You could have five ACOs within a marketplace, and the processes and protocols for dealing with each of them is different,” she said. “It’s not cookie cutter. I hear from customers, ‘This ACO wants this, and that ACO wants that.’ There’s no way around it. They need to do an assessment of where their market sits right now and an assessment of what they can do.”

HITting it hard

With health information technology (HIT) one of the primary drivers behind successful ACOs, post-acute care providers will want to make sure they can talk their language, Templin says.

“IT is the biggest barrier,” she said. “Post-acute care is such a fragmented industry—you have people writing things down, you have some pretty fancy systems, and you have everything in between. The data that’s required continues to be a challenge. This is a big focus for us. Can we provide tools to link them in without it being a huge investment?”

National Sleep Therapy provides virtual support

HME News - Fri, 10/10/2014 - 13:30
10/10/2014Tracy Orzel

CONCORD, N.H. – National Sleep Therapy (NST) seeks to provide CPAP users with an opportunity to interact with fellow sufferers by sponsoring a free monthly virtual support group called, “CPAP Talk – Live!”

“We wanted to create a community where patients could learn and interact with one another and find creative solutions to common problems as well as keep abreast of the latest products, technologies and CPAP tips,” said Eric Cohen, president.

Launched in March for National Sleep Therapy patients, the support group has since seen a rise in participation from non-customers over the past two months, thanks in large part to email marketing, calendar listings, social media and word-of-mouth. The sessions have attracted as many as 60 CPAP users.

Each month, NST invites board-certified sleep physicians, sleep technicians and representatives from various CPAP manufacturers to provide participants with up-to-date information. Participants are also invited to send questions in advance to be discussed during the next session.

Topics range from ways in which patients can become more engaged in therapy to new insurance requirements to how to combat skin irritation, dryness, mask leak and other common CPAP issues.

“The support groups are focused on patient education and an unbiased presentation of new products that are available on the market,” said Cohen. 

Amy Michaud, territory manager for Maine and New Hampshire at ResMed, joined an Oct. 1 call to discuss the features and benefits of three new ResMed masks and field questions about existing products.

“It’s important for us to follow up and really help the patients because compliance is really the biggest obstacle when it comes to any type of therapy,” said Michaud.

While CPAP support groups are nothing new, it’s become increasingly more difficult for HME providers to host them, says Cohen.

“We all know how busy everyone is these days, and we wanted an educational and community based platform whereby geography or mobility is not an issue, and anyone with a telephone could become part of this community,” he added.

Joseph Lewarski: Build strategy around change

HME News - Fri, 10/10/2014 - 13:28
‘The things that got us here may not be what drives us in the future’10/10/2014Liz Beaulieu

VIENNA, Va. – After working within the HME sector from many angles—provider, manufacturer, member services organization—Joseph Lewarski has added consultant to his resume. In that role at GRQ, a boutique healthcare consulting firm based in Vienna, Virginia, he will help create sound strategic and business development plans for companies trying to navigate the evolving healthcare landscape. Here’s what Lewarski, most recently vice president of clinical affairs at Invacare, had to say about where he hopes to steer those companies.

HME News: Why have you stuck with this field?

Joseph Lewarski: I’ve always believed, even when I first got into home care in the 90s, that it would become the primary place to provide health care. That’s becoming more and more true with the focus on wellness, clinical outcomes and cost effectiveness. Hospitals and acute care will always exist, but there are many new models of care developing, some we don’t even know about yet. For me, it’s understanding this on a macro level, and applying it on a micro level with different organizations and trying to align them all.

HME: As you’re surveying the evolving landscape, what kinds of questions are you asking of yourself and your clients?

Lewarski: Everyone is looking at ways to be more holistic in the management of patients and health care overall. From a strategic perspective, where is health care going to be provided? What role will different organizations play in the delivery of care?

HME: We’ve written a lot about how HME providers are changing course in the face of this changing landscape, but what about HME manufacturers?

Lewarski: Technology needs are definitely going to change. Insurance companies are creating plans to accommodate cost and they’re shifting more of the out-of-pocket expenses to the user. As consumers have more skin in the game, they become more active in the process. So there’s a greater level of consumerism. If you look at non-medical devices, look at Fitbit (a device that allows users to track daily activity, calories burned, sleep and weight). It’s $100. The whole space is changing.

HME: What does this greater level of consumerism mean for HME manufacturers specifically?

Lewarski: In the next decade, I think they need to be thinking about how products get to patients differently. There are going to be different business models that come out of this. I’m not saying one will go away or will be replaced, but there will be different business models. The current method has too many levels and too much cost, and everyone sees it. Certain therapies are service intensive—they require a human touch—so I don’t think everything will become a remote business model, but there are things that can be done differently.

HME: Traditionally, the HME industry hasn’t been one to change course quickly.

Lewarski: The companies that are coming into health care from the technology space or the industrial space—they don’t have the prior biases about how care is supposed to be delivered and they’re coming up with better mousetraps. You need to be building an idea and a strategy around change. The things that got us here may not be what drives us in the future.

In brief: ResMed launches program, Respira snags contract

HME News - Fri, 10/10/2014 - 13:26
10/10/2014HME News Staff

SAN DIEGO – ResMed is launching Better Sleep for Women, a new initiative to educate women about the importance of sleep, it announced recently. A recent ResMed survey of 500 women ages 40-65 found that fewer than 20% believed they need to make improvements in the quality of sleep, according to a press release. It will focus on sleep as the third pillar of health, alongside a healthy diet and regular exercise. The program will provide information, tips and resources about women and sleep through a robust online experience including a dedicated website and social media. "Many women resign themselves to experiencing daily fatigue, blaming it on demanding schedules and busy lifestyles," said Dr. Carmel Harrington, a leading sleep researcher and author of The Complete Guide to a Good Night's Sleep. "It is critical that women recognize that constant fatigue or loss of energy is something that warrants a conversation with their doctor.”

Rep. Ellmers pays visit

DUNN, N.C. – Family Medical Supply hosted Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., on Oct. 7. About 75 attendees, including providers and representatives from industry manufacturers and associations, discussed the effects of competitive bidding and audits. “The longer we can keep patients in the home and healthy, the better for saving Medicare dollars and the better for the patients overall well-being," said Ellmers. In July, Ellmers introduced H.R. 5083, which seeks to improve the audit process. It currently has 36 co-sponsors.

Another accolade for Breathe

IRVINE, Calif. – Breathe Technologies has been named to the 2014 FierceMedicalDevices Fierce 15. The designation recognizes companies with a potential to make an impact in the medical device field, according to a release. Breathe’s Non-Invasive Open Ventilation System (NIOV) received CE certification in September and has been recognized by the European Respiratory Society with a Product of Outstanding Interest (POINT) Award for 2014. "This accolade is a wonderful culmination to an outstanding six-month period in which we've received additional regulatory clearances in the U.S and in Europe and were also recently recognized by the European Respiratory Society for creating an innovative technology that solves a challenge of modern respiratory healthcare," said Larry Mastrovich, president and CEO.

Respira snags contract

WASHINGTON – Respira has been awarded a $10 million contract from the Department of Defense (DOD) United States Army Medical Command, it was announced Oct. 2. Under the five-year contract, Respira will support the Sleep Disorder Clinic at Walter Reed, providing care including compliance programs, CPAP, respiratory therapy and clinical research in sleep medicine, according to a press release. Respira was founded in 2001 and has grown to a $10 million respiratory, sleep medicine and home medical equipment company serving 60,000 patients.

Aeroflow takes to the airwaves

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Aeroflow Healthcare has released a new television commercial aimed at potential power wheelchair users, it announced yesterday. The commercial will advise viewers that the provider’s certified mobility specialist can help them qualify for a power wheelchair. The spot will air from October 2014 through March 2015. Aeroflow is a full line provider of DME, mobility and respiratory equipment and services.

Community pharmacy earns honor

BROOKHAVEN, Pa. – Burmans Pharmacy has been voted one of the best pharmacies by readers of the Delaware County Daily Times. “We are honored that our reputation for going above and beyond the needs and expectations of patients was recognized by readers,” said Steve Burman, President & CEO of Burmans Pharmacy. “Patients and physicians have relied on Burmans dedicated and knowledgeable team to assist with every step, from prescribing to final delivery, for almost 50 years.” More than 100,000 Times readers voted for local businesses in more than 180 categories.

Prepay review for hospital beds headed for Jurisdiction D

INDIANPOLIS – National Government Services, the Jurisdiction B DME MAC, has announced a widespread prepay review of hospital beds. It includes the cods: E0294, E0260, E0301 and E0303. Data analysis has identified these codes as having a high comprehensive error rate testing (CERT). If you are selected, you will receive and additional documentation request letter asking for certain documentation.

E-commerce site adds pediatrics

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. – Discountmedicalsupplies.com has launched a pediatric division, it announced Oct. 6. The site will offer brand-name children’s medical supplies, including mobility, nutrition, diapers and orthopedics. Discountmedicalsupplies also announced that it plans to make “substantial” medical supply and financial donations to three South Florida children’s hospitals, up to $30,000 over the course of a year. "DiscountMedicalSupplies.com is now truly a one-stop shop and full-service website for entire families," says CEO John Solomon. The ecommerce site now offers more than 40,000 products.

New look at VGM Homelink

WATERLOO, Iowa – On the heels of its growth, VGM Homelink has rebranded and has a new logo, according to a press release. The managed care division of VGM, Homelink has doubled its size in three year. Homelink enables commercial insurance and workers’ compensation programs to access HME and related services through its nationwide network of more than 11,000 independent providers. “We are ready for a new look to grow with us, but I want to emphasize that we are the same Homelink that focuses on value, relationships and quality outcomes,” said Dave Kazynski, president.

Medicare Advantage enrollment on the rise

HME News - Fri, 10/10/2014 - 12:23
10/10/2014Theresa Flaherty

YARMOUTH, Maine – Medicare has said it expects enrollment in Medicare Advantage plans to increase, a trend providers say they are seeing already.

“We are seeing a lot more this year then we have in the past,” said Dan Heckman, president and general manager of Heckman Healthcare in Decatur, Ill. “There was never a lot of penetration in this area by managed care. I think they are marketing it more aggressively.”

A recent release from CMS said that enrollment in MA plans in 2015 is expected to reach an all time high. From 2010, when the Affordable Care Act was implemented, and 2015, enrollment in the plans is projected to increase 42%.

One reason for the increase: Many of the plans offer better drug coverage, say providers.

“We have some particular patients—the more chronic patients—that have aged in to Medicare and they have been used to a Blue Cross-type policy,” said Laura Williard, senior director of regulatory affairs for High Point, S.C.-based Advanced Home Care. “They need something similar to what they are used to.”

Advanced has seen an increase in MA plans of about 2% among its oxygen and CPAP patients, she said.

The plans are often easier for HME providers to deal with, too, they say.

“They do pretty much everything that Medicare does,” said Ron Frantz, medical director for home health at Bell Apothecary in Easton, Pa. “Their rules and polices aren’t the same, but they pay the same as far as the equipment. We are able to do beds, oxygen and nebulizers—all the normal DME that we didn’t win a bid for.”

One big way in which MA plans are different from Medicare is audits.

“Technically, they aren’t immune from audits, but we are not seeing one audit from MA plans,” said Heckman. “I don’t know if they just haven’t thought of it.”

The annual open enrollment period for Medicare began Oct. 15. The mass enrollment period is always a challenge, says Williard. When beneficiaries change plans or switch from traditional Medicare, HME providers are often the last to know. 

“We have an insurance change process during this time and we put extra resources to that,” she said. “We find that we know that a change is happening, but we don’t know who the new plan is. That can impact and delay getting authorizations.”

Legislative update: Bid fix a priority

HME News - Fri, 10/03/2014 - 13:06
10/03/2014Theresa Flaherty

WASHINGTON – There is a short window of opportunity for the HME industry to push its legislation when lawmakers return after the elections—but there is opportunity, say stakeholders.

“(Hill) staff are prepping for a busy month between the elections and Christmas and I expect a frenzy on Capitol Hill,” said Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare. “I think we will have some great opportunities so we really need to keep working toward that.”

Those opportunities include a possible “doc fix” bill, an omnibus spending bill and a Medicare package that is in the works, she said.

With all 435 seats in the House of Representatives, as well as 36 Senate seats, up for re-election on Nov. 4, it’s the perfect time to get in front of lawmakers on competitive bidding and audits, says Tom Ryan, president and CEO of AAHomecare. 

His priority? H.R. 4920, which seeks to reform the competitive bidding. It currently has 49 cosponsors.

CMS has said it plans to open the bidding window for the Round 2 recompete in the winter of 2015.

“There’s a small window to get this bid fix in,” he said. “We had 180 on H.R. 1717. This is one provision of that bill and we should be able to crosswalk all of those people over.”

Building support during the election cycle could create momentum when lawmakers return the second week in November for a lame duck session, said Ryan.

“Very often that’s an opportunity to get that member who has been on the fence—particularly if they are not re-elected—to say, “I’ll give this to you,” he said.

Supplier standards return to focus

HME News - Fri, 10/03/2014 - 13:04
Bill combined with standards could be ‘defining moment’10/03/2014Leah Hoenen

WASHINGTON – Stakeholders are hard at work developing supplier standard recommendations that they want to have on hand once a bill to create a separate benefit for complex rehab is signed into law.

The bill stipulates that the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services consult with a stakeholder workgroup to look at creating a standard over and above the assistive technology professional (ATP), says Don Clayback, executive director of NCART.

"What we're doing proactively is setting up a group to develop some recommendations that we'll present to CMS once the legislation is passed," he said.

NRRTS board members met in August to start the brainstorming process.

Once the workgroup completes the standards, it will share a draft and solicit comments, says Executive Director Weesie Walker. 

"It's still a work in progress, but we are getting much closer," she said. “We're trying to look at it from a standpoint of raising the bar, because that's part of the separate benefit category, and to look at creating a pathway for the new people coming into the field.”

To support its standards, the workgroup plans to conduct research on, for example, why only certain individuals should be qualified to provide complex rehab.

"We have to be mindful that there needs to be consumer protection,” Walker said. “That's really what it's all about—preserving healthcare dollars with people getting appropriate equipment and knowing they're working with someone who is a professional supplier."

The bill combined with standards could be a “defining moment” for the complex rehab industry, Walker says.

"As the industry has rapidly progressed over the past two decades, with all the products that are available and the technology, it's really exciting," she said.

Circadiance looks to the crowd

HME News - Fri, 10/03/2014 - 13:03
10/03/2014Kelly Bothum

EXPORT, Pa. – When Circadiance wanted to test the idea of creating an all-cloth CPAP mask for infants and children, it didn’t seek out the opinions of a focus group or lean on some deep-pocketed investors. 

Instead, it went straight to the crowd. 

On Sept. 30, it launched an online fundraising campaign on Indiegogo, surpassing its goal of $50,000 on its first morning. At press time, it had raised more than $80,000.

“We are the No. 1 trending crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo,” said David Groll, CEO of Circadiance.“We hope that our position within the crowd funding community translates into much broader appeal and attracts a lot of other people to help us reach a much higher funding level.” 

A pediatric mask is something Groll says is sorely needed in a market focused almost exclusively on adult patients. 

The problem: There aren’t as many pediatric patients who could benefit from the mask, so the economics don’t encourage manufacturers to develop and market a smaller product. Finding capital is a challenge. 

That’s where crowdfunding comes in. 

“Everybody has a lot of empathy for sick babies,” Groll said. “That was one reason I felt the pediatric application was one that might get support in this way.”

This summer, the company created a short video explaining some of the mask-related problems babies can face, including pressure ulcers. Some providers, desperate to help their tiniest patients, have resorted to retooling adult-sized masks to fit smaller faces. 

Circadiance emailed the video to more than 10,000 people, including clinicians and customers who buy and use its products. The company also posted it on Twitter and Facebook, where its SleepWeaver mask has more than 30,000 likes.  

Groll said the response was enough to convince Circadiance to push ahead with the next phase of its campaign—collecting actual pledges from supporters.

“For us, the benefits are really tangible,” he said. “People pledged a lot of money. It’s not enough for us to reach our goal, but it’s a strong indication of interest.” 

Special report: Technology gives Geneva Woods leg up

HME News - Fri, 10/03/2014 - 13:01
10/03/2014John Andrews

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of stories about how the HME industry is forging a new identity. Click here to read the previous story.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Geneva Woods is navigating some rugged terrain in its quest for success. And that’s not a reference to the pharmacy provider’s service territory, which includes vast swaths of wilderness in Alaska, Montana and Wyoming.

Based in Anchorage, the company combines pharmacy, infusion, mobility and respiratory categories, serving patients in remote, heavily wooded areas. Managing that range of services and geography requires special category expertise, logistics prowess and operational efficiency. 

For President Dan Afrasiabi, it all came down to looking at the business in a new way.

“My background is in different businesses, from technology and software to data analytics,” he said. “I questioned every basic assumption that was the basis of this business. There is a great reluctance in this industry to try new things. But if you’re still doing things the way people did in the 80s, you’re not doing it the right way.”

WIP it

By working with Atlanta-based Brightree to improve its IT capabilities, Geneva Woods has a panoramic cyber-view of operations, from intake to billing. The process is called WIP: work in progress.

“There are too many legacy systems in this business that prevent you from having a company-wide view of a patient’s status,” Afrasiabi said. “Brightree connected all our processes by developing WIP states. We can look at every claim and know which WIP state is in for sales, collections, responses, audits, write-offs and stop holds. That has resulted in significantly improved metrics around revenues across every category.”

GO for it

Workplace professionalism is another priority at Geneva Woods, Afrasiabi said. The company keeps all services in-house, including long-distance deliveries to residents of the backcountry.

“We don’t outsource anything,” he said. “And we have high standards. The word ‘drivers’ is banned from our vocabulary—we have GO techs.”

GO (Geneva One) techs drive trucks equipped for every contingency, including automated ordering devices that store orders internally when wireless networks aren’t available and send them out as soon as a signal is detected.

Make it part of your DNA

By bundling services together under one umbrella and fully utilizing information technology, the Geneva Woods model creates unprecedented operational efficiencies, Afrasiabi says.

“It was difficult and complicated at first, but once we made it part of our 

DNA, it created an advantage,” he said.

In brief: Oncologix makes buy, ASP figures increase

HME News - Fri, 10/03/2014 - 12:58
10/03/2014HME News Staff

ALEXANDRIA, La. – Oncologix Tech has acquired Esteemcare and Affordable Medical Equipment Solutions, it announced Oct. 2. The companies, with offices in Columbia and Charleston, S.C., provide respiratory and sleep therapy and hold 45 competitive bidding contracts for CPAP, according to a release. "With $2.5 million in annual revenues and with over 45 additional MSA markets awarded for sales and distribution, the company is uniquely positioned for rapid growth and expansion,” said Wayne Erwin, chairman and CEO of Oncologix. Oncologix is a diversified medical holding company that manufactures Class II medical devices, and provides sales and distribution of home medical products.

Invacare amends credit agreement

ELYRIA, Ohio – Invacare has amended its credit agreement to gain additional flexibility calculating it financial covenants through the duration of the credit agreement. The amendment provides an add back to the company’s EBITDA for warranty accruals up to $10 million and subtracts cash payments when paid in future periods, the company said in a release. “We appreciate the ongoing support of our current lenders,” said Rob Gudbranson, interim president and CEO. “Over the past years, we have proactively managed our business to generate cash, including the divestitures of non-core businesses, and have paid down total debt outstanding by approximately $212.7 million since 2010 to $58.5 million as of June 30, 2014.” IN other financial news, Invacare also announced a quarterly dividend of .0125 per share, payable Oct. 10.

ASP: Perforomist sees healthy jump

BALTIMORE – Third-quarter payments for respiratory drugs is up nearly across the board. Brand name drug Perforomist (J7606) saw the biggest jump, up nearly 90 cents, to $7.46 per dose according to the latest average sales price (ASP) figures. Brovana (J7605) increased to $6.96, up 57 cents from the previous quarter; and budesonide (J7626) increased nearly 48 cents to $5.38 cents per dose. Albuterol (J7613) and ipratropium (J7644) stayed relatively flat, at 14 cents per dose and just under 12 cents per dose, respectively.

Provider makes award triple play

NEW BERLIN, Wis. – Home Care Medical has received the HME Provider of the Year award from the Wisconsin Association of Medical Equipment Services (WAMES). This is the third year in a row the provider has been honored with the award. Also receiving awards: Jim Spellman, director of operations and WAMES president, received the Industry Excellence award for his efforts on the WAMES Legislative Committee; and Donna Smith, director of respiratory care, received the Distinguished Service award for her efforts on the WAMES Respiratory Committee. “This year, Home Care Medical proudly celebrated our 40 year milestone and this award, along with Jim and Donna’s contributions, represent our continued commitment and dedication to excellence,” said John Teevan, Home Care Medical president, in a release.

Dr. Hughes to exit

HINGHAM, Mass. – Dr. Paul Hughes is stepping down from his role as the medical director for Jurisdiction A, according to a bulletin from the Home Medical Equipment Services Association, citing a message from NHIA. Dr. Fred Mamuya will serve as interim director. Mamuya has been with NHIC, the Jurisdiction A DME MAC, for the past two years as ALJ Appeals Medical Director. Dr. Hughes’ last day is Oct. 10

Breathe adds text messaging

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Breathe has released its latest software enhancement to its text messaging feature, the company announced today. With the new feature, DME sales team members can receive text messages when their office receives prescriptions, if a patient qualifies for oxygen or not, and when the patient is set up on oxygen. “It's our mission to provide and oximetry software solution that continues to evolve based on our clients’ needs, text messaging was a simple software enhancement that has had such a big impact for our clients,” said Amber Yeager, owner of Breathe. Breathe is a nationally recognized independent diagnostic testing facility.

Computers Unlimited founder honored

BILLINGS, Mont. – Computers Unlimited founder Mike Schaer has been inducted into the Montana Business Hall of Fame. Criteria for acceptance include outstanding business performance, high standard of ethics and a willingness to take risks. Schaer, a self-taught computer programmer, launched Computers Unlimited in 1978. Today the company employs nearly 200 people, according to local news reports. His son David took the reins in 2009. Schaer remains on the board as chairman.

ResMed, Brightree plan enhancements

SAN DIEGO – ResMed has expanded its relationship with Brightree, with both companies agreeing to enhance the integration of ResMed’s U-Sleep compliance solution within the Brightree solution and add new features from ResMed’s AirView patient management system. The first of these enhancements is salted to introduced in November. Brightree and ResMed began working together in 2013 to automate the onboarding of patients that use ResMed S9 PAP devices into U-Sleep.

$24 million Medicare fraud alleged

HOUSTON– Angel Mirabal, of Miami, was arrested Sept. 26 on charges of scheming to defraud Medicare. From April 2013 to July 2013, Mirabal allegedly conspired to bill Medicare $24 million in fraudulent claims for reimbursement through Quick Solutions Medical Supplies. According to the indictment said Mirabal and his co-conspirators used fraudulent shell companies to launder and disburse the proceeds from the health care fraud scheme.

Earnings calls

YARMOUTH, Maine – San Diego-based ResMed will report its first quarter 2014 financial results Oct. 23, at 4:30 pm EST. The company will host a webcast to discuss operating results and future outlook. Also on Oct. 23, Elyria, Ohio-based Invacare will host a call to discuss third quarter 2014 results. That call is scheduled for 8:30 am EST.


Why is Walgreens shopping its home infusion biz?

HME News - Fri, 09/26/2014 - 14:20
09/26/2014Theresa Flaherty

DEERFIELD, Ill. – News that Walgreens is mulling the sale of a controlling stake in its home infusion business came as no surprise to analysts.

“I think Walgreens recognizes that this is a core asset and would probably be valued quite substantially by a third party,” said Justin Ishbia, founder and managing partner of Shore Capital Partners. “There will be a lot of interest from a lot of people.”

The news of the potential sale follows CVS Caremark’s acquisition of Coram from Apria Healthcare for $2.1 billion earlier this year.

Walgreens is said to have hired Bank of America to explore a sale of just more than 50% in Walgreens Infusion Services in a deal that could be worth around $1.5 billion, according to a Reuters article.

“It’s possible they just think it could be more valuable in somebody else’s hands with them keeping a piece while also monetizing projects,” said Ishbia.

Walgreens entered the home infusion space when it acquired OptionCare for $850 million in 2007. It grew into the largest provider of home infusion when it traded its long-term care pharmacy business for OmniCare’s home infusion business in 2010.

As part of its growth strategy, Walgreens has been acquiring smaller infusion providers, something that appeared to have slowed down in recent years, say analysts.

“It’s possible that slowed because they’ve been thinking about this strategy,” said Reg Blackburn, a managing director with The Braff Group. “It’s also possible because of the lack of large acquisition targets in the market.”

One area Walgreens could possibly be considering focusing on: its specialty pharmacy business.

“The specialty pharmacy market is growing really rapidly,” said Blackburn. “Chronic disease specialty pharmacy—a lot of which is mail order—is just not the same high-touch model as the acute portion of home infusion.”

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