Are We on the Same Page?

It’s no secret that our industry has long suffered the consequences of a few bad apples. Medicare fraud is repeatedly reported in the mainstream media and has had a lasting effect on the reputation of the home care industry.

Organizations, such as the American Association for Homecare, have called on the industry to take matters into its own hands, especially since the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has done little to prevent fraud and abuse. Thanks to AAHomecare, Congress is getting the message that protecting patients is home care’s mission.

Yet a recent internal e-mail sent to members of the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC) asked hospital-based RTs to watch out for home patients because there was a concern that some providers were switching oxygen equipment in the wake of reimbursement cuts, even though this equipment might not be suitable for the patient.

The e-mail angered many of the organization’s home care members. Several RTs sent letters to AARC Executive Director Sam Giordano demanding a retraction and an apology.

Some providers — longstanding members of the AARC — said that the memo implied that hospital-based RTs are better than home care RTs. In fact, these providers said that the memo showed how little the organization knows about how home care works.

The memo also linked to a statement on the consumer site YourLungHealth.org that said, “most home care companies are honest.”

That line, which has since been removed from the site, left many home care members feeling betrayed.Bob McCoy, home care section chair for the AARC, said the memo was not intended to insult AARC home care RTs. He said the organization simply meant to call attention to a possible fraudulent situation and put more eyes on the situation. McCoy said he has called for a similar action, referred to as a neighborhood watch.

Several weeks after the memo was published, AARC’s Giordano released a letter of explanation. He called home care RTs valuable assets and urged collaboration.

Still, as we move forward to boost our image, we must be careful not to trample on our own industry. Asking for help in uncovering fraudulent practices should not have the unintended consequence of casting more doubt on home care. We must be careful to choose our words wisely and present a united front. At the same time, our industry organizations, like the AARC, must support home care wholeheartedly and openly if a public-image campaign is to succeed. Perhaps, because of this situation, we are now better aligned to make that happen.

This article originally appeared in the Respiratory Management Sept/Oct 2008 issue of HME Business.

About the Author

Elisha Bury is the editor of Respiratory Management.

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