Dan Rather Reports Skewers HMEs
One-sided report acts as platform for HHS OIG general counsel.
- By David Kopf
- Jan 22, 2010
Once again, a mainstream news report slamming the homecare industry has debuted this week, and like previous reports, it heavily features information from the HHS Office of Inspector General.
The Jan. 19 edition of Dan Rather Reports featured a segment entitled “Paging Doctor Fraud,” in which veteran TV newsman Dan Rather interviews Lew Morris, general counsel for the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General.
In the report, Morris reiterates findings in the HHS OIG’s study of wheelchair costs as evidence of a need to cut mobility funding, despite the fact that the report admittedly ignored substantial costs associated with providing power wheelchairs. Rather paraphrases Morris as saying that Medicare reimburses power wheelchairs “to the tune of between seven and 10 thousand dollars a piece ... even though the wheelchairs cost a fraction of that wholesale.”
Morris follows up by saying, “So if you can get a doctor to prescribe a high end power wheelchair, perhaps for someone who doesn't even need it, you can afford to provide that wheelchair and still make an enormous profit. Give part of the kickback to the doctor for his complicity in the scheme, and still come out ahead.”
Morris took a similar tack with oxygen providers, saying, “A supplier who buys an oxygen concentrator can get one for a little under $600. Medicare will pay for the rental of that very piece of equipment for 36 months and pay over $7,000. So, it's an enormous waste of money. It's almost 12 times the cost of the product.”
Neither Morris nor Rather acknowledged the costs of provisioning oxygen services to patients. He then launched into an attack on oxygen patients that were involved in efforts to protect the oxygen benefit from further cuts.
After a lead-in from Dan Rather, in which Dan Rather implied the efforts on HMEs and patients were those of industry “lobbyists,” Morris said, “The home-health agencies and those who supply these concentrators organized, even brought senior citizens dragging oxygen tanks behind them to go up on the Hill and beg their representatives not to cut their oxygen supply, not to let them die, not to let the price of this critically valued piece of equipment be reduced. And Congress heard. So, the Medicare program was stopped from reducing those prices.”
At no point during the report did Rather or Morris mention the various cuts that oxygen providers and patients have endured, such as the 9.5 percent cut to oxygen reimbursements per MIPPA, the 36-month rental cap.
Days prior to the report, Michael Reinemer, vice president, communications and policy for the American Association for Homecare alerted staff at Dan Rather Reports and HDNet, the Dallas-based television channel that runs Dan Rather Reports, of the errors.
“I was alarmed by the inaccuracies in your description of Medicare payments for oxygen, and I hope that Dan Rather Reports corrects them,” Reinemer wrote in a message to Dan Rather Reports, which outlined the various factual problems in the piece. Reinemer added that, “ … the real story that merits attention is the fact that quality care provided in the home is by far the most cost-effective setting for healthcare in the U.S. The seven dollars per day that Medicare reimburses to oxygen providers enables seniors to remain safe and independent in their homes rather than in a nursing home or hospital, which are vastly more expensive.”
Despite the alert to factual problems with the piece, Dan Rather Reports ran the segment without homecare industry input.
A full transcript of the program can be viewed at http://www.hd.net/cgi-perl/transcripts_send_word_doc.pl?id=A6651
David Kopf is the Editor of HME Business.