Industry Responds to Negative Press

CNN, WSJ, other reports prompt AAHomecare, providers to wage ‘Myth vs. Reality’ campaign.

Last week’s sensational account from CNN about a four-year-old Medicare claim for a wheelchair, as well as other reports, have prompted the industry to respond to news stories that perpetuate various misconceptions regarding homecare and HME.

In addition to CNN’s “One wheelchair — one lesson of problems in health care reform” video, misleading statements and reporting was recently released by the Wall Street Journal (“Obama’s Health Expert Gets Political,” on July 24; and “No Help for the Blue Dogs,” on July 28), and the Washington Post (“Bush Official Sees Peril in Health Plan,” on July 24).

As a result, the American Association for Homecare has developed a “Myth vs. Reality” media relations campaign to dispel media misconceptions regarding homecare and HME providers. The campaign takes a simple, myth debunking approach:

Myth: Medicare overpays for DME in comparison to Internet prices. This notion was presented in the CNN story. Essentially the argument is made that Medicare should pay no more than Internet prices for providing a wheelchair or oxygen therapy.  

Reality: Serving seniors and people with disabilities in their homes requires services and other non-equipment costs. To ensure quality of care, providers must comply with a host of federal and state regulations and other standards of care. The final cost to Medicare reflects delivery, set-up, patient education, and maintenance, in addition to the cost of compliance with all regulations.  

Myth : Congress killed NCB, which has cost the taxpayers more money.

Reality: NCB is moving forward after an initial delay last year in order to address numerous flaws identified by Congress. Moreover, taxpayers reaped the savings from the delay because providers paid for the delay via a 9.5 percent reimbursement cut, went into effect on Jan. 1 nationwide — not just in the bid areas.

Myth: CMS’s NCB is a good model for reform of healthcare.  

Reality: While “competitive bidding” might sound good, it would have eliminated most of the providers (as many as 90 percent) through selective contracting (even if they agreed to lower prices). Decreased numbers of providers would have reduced patient access to care, their choice of provider, and the quality of their care. Moreover,  NCB would increase costs by complicating the transition from hospital to home, lengthening expensive hospital stays and increasing the likelihood of rehospitalizations, a major cost driver in Medicare. To date, the serious problems with competitive bidding program have not been adequately addressed.

The CNN story received additional response from AAHomecare because the piece had been under development since May, but did not interview AAHomecare or members of the industry. AAHomecare said that for eight weeks after conferring with the piece's producers; sending documents stating the association's position on key issues; and asking state associations and VGM to contact members of congress who were interviewed for the story, the piece still aired with multiple misconceptions and no interview from industry respresentatives. 

So the assocation asked CNN to correct the misrespresentations in the piece, as well as air time to respond to the piece. AAHomecare reported today that CNN replied that it is still weighing the complaint.

Providers seeking assistance for working with the media should contact Tilly Gambill (tillyg@aahomecare.org) or Michael Reinemer (michaelr@aahomecare.org).

Links:

CNN Story Paints Providers As Profiteers - http://hme-business.com/articles/2009/07/23/cnn.aspx

Research

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