Thursday, March 27, 2008

Ms. Wheelchair America and State Associations – a perfect match

The New England Medical Equipment Dealers Association (NEMED) began supporting the Ms. Wheelchair America program in the New England area about three years ago. We had heard about the program many times through VGM but it wasn’t until we met Laurel Labdon, Ms. Wheelchair Massachusetts 2005, that we became hooked. Laurel had arranged a program at the State House and several NEMED members attended. We were so impressed with her that we continued to support her efforts whenever possible. That same year, NEMED sponsored Laurel’s trip to D.C. for the AAHomecare legislative conference. I have made the trip to D.C. many times over the past 10 years. Having Laurel in the room was an amazing experience. Hearing her story gave life to the issues we have been discussing for years and had a great impact. Everyone who met Laurel fell in love with her. This has been our experience with every Ms. Wheelchair America representative we’ve worked with. They are amazing women.

NEMED has organized a silent auction at our annual meeting for the past three years to raise money for the program in New England. We have been able to support several candidates in several states over the past few years. Our Ms. Wheelchair America fund has paid the entrance fees for several state delegates ($1,500) and has contributed funds to pageants in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. We formed a committee comprised of NEMED members in all six states to try to get a program up and running in each New England state. It has been a challenge to accomplish this but we continue to work at it. Currently there are two active programs- Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

These women are amazing advocates for our industry. State associations can benefit from becoming involved with the program.

Guest Blogger- Karyn Estrella, Executive Director of NEMED

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Flawed Competitive Bidding Process Strikes Again

Seven business days are left to scrutinize contracts and determine whether your company can afford to continue doing business at the competitively bid price. It’s a difficult decision many providers are facing this week as they read through the contract offers provided by CMS on Friday via certified mail. Providers have until April 3 to make a decision and return their contracts.

But this decision is only for the bid winners who successfully made it through the CBIC/CMS bid selection process. Many more were not so “lucky,” and AAHomecare is learning that flaws in the bidding process may have unfairly disqualified many bidders. AAHomecare is encouraging providers who have problems or complaints related to Round One of the competitive bidding program to contact the Association with information about the specifics of those issues through a submission form located at Comments will allow AAHomecare to identify problems so they can be quickly addressed and shared with CMS and Congress.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

“I’m an Example of Successful Homecare,” Says Reigning Ms. Wheelchair America 2008

An active advocate, organizer, speaker, writer, researcher, and peer mentor, the reigning Ms. Wheelchair America 2008, Kristen McCosh, spreads the word about the accomplishments and achievements of people who use wheelchairs. Kristen uses a wheelchair because of a spinal cord injury she sustained at the age of 15. She proudly asserts she is “an example of successful homecare.”

She attended the AAHomecare 2007 Washington Legislative Conference as Ms. Wheelchair Massachusetts, sponsored by the New England Medical Equipment Dealers Association (NEMED). However, through NEMED’s support and encouragement Ms. McCosh returned to the 2008 conference as the reigning Ms. Wheelchair America 2008.

“Ms. Wheelchair America is not a beauty contest,” McCosh said. According to the pageant’s website, it is instead a competition to select the most accomplished and articulate spokesperson for the millions of Americans with disabilities. Many state homecare associations are working to bring the Ms. Wheelchair America contest to new states.

Visit her blog at: McCosh can be reached at

Thursday, March 13, 2008

DME Fraud Story- Small Step in the Right Direction?

Last week’s Los Angeles Times and Associated Press (AP) stories on an anti-fraud initiative by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) represent modest progress because they did not condemn the HME industry. What a concept.

The homecare community and AAHomecare have explained to Kimberly Brandt, CMS program integrity director, and the media many times how important it is to make the distinction between criminals posing as legitimate providers and the vast majority of law-abiding HME providers working to serve patients. For once, two articles have correctly looked to CMS as the agency accountable for preventing fraud. Brandt commented in the AP story that criminals committing fraud in the DME sector “aren’t real medical suppliers.”

CMS’s accountability was also made evident in an OIG report (“Los Angeles County Suppliers’ Compliance with Medicare Standards: Results from Unannounced Visits”).

You can view the AP article for more information.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Nearly 350 Homecare Advocates Will Lobby Capitol Hill This Week

At the American Association for Homecare Washington Legislative Conference this week, hundreds of homecare advocates will be on Capitol Hill to lobby Congress to preserve patient access to durable medical equipment in the home. Champions in Congress are responding positively to the prospect of meeting with their constituents and have
begun sending “Dear Colleague” letters on competitive bidding, the first month purchase option and oxygen.

Competitive Bidding System Designed to Put Small Businesses Out of Business
Representatives Jason Altmire (D-Pa.) and Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) have written a “Dear Colleague” asking for signatures on a letter to the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services requesting information on the impact of the DMEPOS competitive bidding program on the nation’s small business community. They currently have 14 signatures and are requesting AAHomecare members’ help in obtaining more signatures. Download the congressional sign-on letter here to print.

First Month Purchase Option
Representative Jason Altmire (D-Pa.) and Sam Graves (R-Mo.) are distributing a Dear Colleague letter to members of the Small Business Committee asking them to sign a letter to the leadership and health subcommittee leadership of the House Ways and Means Committee. The letter expresses concerns about the potential elimination of the first month purchase option for power mobility devices (PMD) in this year’s Medicare package. The members explain that elimination of the first month purchase option would be especially harmful to small PMD suppliers and could cause many of them to end their participation in the Medicare program. AAHomecare encourages you to ask members of the Small Business Committee to sign on to this letter. View the Dear Colleague letter, congressional sign-on letter, and list of the members on the Small Business Committee.

Home Oxygen Therapy
Senators Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and Pat Roberts (R-Kans.) have sent a letter to the Senate Budget Committee with 11 signatures. The letter urged them not to reduce reimbursement in the Medicare home oxygen therapy benefit. The letter explained that further payment reductions this year, coming on top of several recent cuts and an estimated 20 percent reduction that will take effect over the next several months under current law, could jeopardize care for some patients and make benefit reform much more difficult to achieve. (See letter to Senate Budget Committee)