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New Organization Formed To Save Independent Medical Equipment Suppliers
Date:5/14/2009

New Medicare Policies Will Harm Small Home Medical Equipment Suppliers Who Account for 85% of Suppliers in the Medicare Program

MARTINEZ, Ga., May 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- To ensure that the independent home medical equipment (HME) providers have a voice in public policy and a seat at the table for any healthcare reform initiative, a group of home medical equipment suppliers formed the Committee to Save Independent HME Suppliers, LLC (CSI: HME). This non-profit business league was created to respond to growing threat recent policy changes pose to the future of independent medical suppliers and the patients they serve.

"For a long period, the industry has taken various positions and directions that have proven to be ineffective in changing political thinking about the home medical equipment industry," said David Petsch, owner of Petsch Respiratory in Augusta, GA, and Managing Director of CSI: HME. "CSI: HME will implement strategies designed to change political mindsets by embarking on a new path to ensure the concerns of the independent HME provider community are being addressed."

To advance its agenda, CSI: HME has retained the Capitol Hill Consulting Group, Inc., a Washington, D.C., lobbying firm to help advance its issues on Capitol Hill and the Baker Wright Group, LLC, a full service public relations firm that will work with the lobbying firm to raise consumer and media awareness of the independent home medical supplier industry. The message taken to Washington and the activities of both the lobby and public relations firms will be determined by CSI: HME's 15-25 member Legislative Activity Board (LAB).

CSI: HME's initial legislative priorities will be lobbying Congress to repeal the 36-month cap on oxygen reimbursement and the proposed competitive bidding restrictions for medical equipment.

Repeal of the 36-Month Oxygen Reimbursement Cap

Effective January 1, 2009, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) stopped payment to suppliers for oxygen equipment and services when patients reach 36 months (three years) of continuous use. Suppliers continue providing service and supplies to patients for an additional two years without payment, even if the patient relocates to another state.

This flawed policy will negatively impact patients' access to life-sustaining oxygen therapy to treat lung diseases and jeopardizes the ability for independent home medical equipment suppliers to stay in business. Other consequences include higher healthcare costs due to increased emergency room visits and nursing home care. One year of home oxygen service costs less than one day of in-patient care.

In an effort to reverse this bad policy, The Home Oxygen Patient Protection Act of 2009 (HR 2373) was introduced on May 12, 2009. CSI: HME will work with other industry partners and key legislators and their staff to gain co-sponsors and passage of the bill.

Repeal of the Competitive Bidding Program

Competitive bidding is another short-sighted policy where Medicare patients will receive diminished quality of care and denied access to the supplier of their choice with whom they've built a trusted relationship. CMS will award contracts for home medical equipment patient distribution to a limited number of suppliers who are the lowest bidders in selected regions across the country.

The program, which was initially scheduled to begin July 1, 2008 but then postponed by Congressional action last year, will be re-launched in 9 metropolitan areas and gradually expanded to include 70 other areas throughout the country. CMS will begin soliciting bids from suppliers this summer.

This policy will likely have a disastrous effect on patients who are forced to use suppliers far from where they live and will reduce the number of suppliers capable of serving Medicare in bid areas by 90%. This comes at a time when demand for such services is increasing due to the rise in Medicare beneficiaries. Durable medical equipment represents less than 1.7% of Medicare expenditures each year. In contrast, inpatient hospitals represent 27.5% and physicians 10.6% of Medicare costs.

According to CMS, about 85% of Medicare durable medical equipment suppliers are small, independent suppliers. Congress must repeal this program which will harm patient health and lead to higher costs because of reduced access to quality, experienced suppliers.

CSI: HME leadership believes that we cannot continue to do the same things and expect a different result. The organization intends to work with and compliment other organizations to further the goals of the industry. The organization will use contributions from the HME industry solely to support the lobby and PR efforts. Providers interested in helping the cause and having a voice in the message are urged to contact CSI: HME at or David Petsch at dpetsch@csihme.org.


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SOURCE Committee to Save Independent HME Suppliers, LLC
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