AAHomecare, ATS Brief Capitol Hill Staff on HME Access

Advocates, stakeholders meet with legislative staff on the negative impact of competitive bidding on patient access to needed equipment.

More than 50 House and Senate staff attended a briefing on Wednesday from the American Association for Homecare and the American Thoracic Society (ATS) on the negative impact of competitive bidding.  

Scheduled by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) the meeting focused on two research presentations: AAHomecare’s study (http://bit.ly/2C69K2N) on competitive bidding’s impact on HME patients, discharge planners, and ATS’s study (http://bit.ly/2FYOGgX) that shows access problems experienced by oxygen patients.

Al Dobson, president of Dobson DaVanzo & Associates presented various data points from the AAHomecare commissioned Analysis on the Impact of Competitive Bidding on Medicare Beneficiary Access to Durable Medical Equipment, including the fact that 77 percent of case managers had experienced difficulties with the ease and timeliness of the discharge process for HME patients in the previous year; that 52 percent of HME patients surveyed said they experienced difficulties accessing equipment and services; and that oxygen patients had reported a higher level of difficulty at 59 percent. Dobson was the lead on that study.

Susan Jacobs, RN, MS, a pulmonary nurse specialist at Stanford University’s School of Medicine, briefed staffers on Patient Perceptions of the Adequacy of Supplemental Oxygen Therapy, the peer-reviewed study she led for the ATS. Access frustrations she detailed in her brief included the fact that 51 percent of oxygen patients nationwide had problems with their oxygen service, a stark contrast to CMS’ assertion that they receive a handful of complaints regarding supplemental oxygen each month, which contradicts CMS’s claims of very low complaint levels.

Other industry voices included Mike Calcaterra, northern zone vice president for northwestern regional HME provider NORCO Inc. and Montana state chair for the Big Sky Association of Medical Equipment Suppliers. Calcaterra told staffers that Montana has lost 20 percent of its HME businesses since 2013, and Idaho has lost 37 percent of its providers. He also highlighted that rural providers of stationary oxygen haven’t been able to cover their costs thanks to Medicare’s 57 percent cut for reimbursement on those claims since 2016.

AAHomecare President and CEO Tom Ryan closed the meeting by emphasizing that unless the Office of Management and Budget didn’t release an Interim Final Rule that could bring competitive bidding relief to rural providers and patients, those communities would face worsening access problems. He urged Congress to release the IFR and support broader bidding reforms.

About the Author

David Kopf is the Publisher and Executive Editor of HME Business and DME Pharmacy magazines. Follow him on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/dkopf/ and on Twitter at @postacutenews.

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