BALTIMORE – CMS did not always follow its own procedures and federal requirements for awarding competitive bidding contracts consistently, according to a new report from the Office of Inspector General.
CMS did not follow the bid process consistently for 23 of 215 winning suppliers, the OIG found.
Breaking it down, the agency awarded contracts to 10 suppliers that did not meet financial statement requirements and 13 suppliers that did not have the required license in at least one competition, according to the OIG.
The inconsistencies affected 99 of the 240 sampled single payment amounts, the OIG found.
Additionally, CMS did not monitor suppliers in accordance with established procedures and federal requirements for another 31 suppliers. These suppliers did not maintain the applicable license required by their contract for the last six months of 2013, according to the OIG.
With these errors, CMS paid suppliers $182,000 less than they should have, or less than .03% of the $553.7 million paid under Round 2 during the last six months of 2013, the OIG estimates.
The report recommends that CMS follow established program procedures and federal requirements consistently; ensure that suppliers have the required licensure; and monitor supplier licensure requirements by implementing a system to identify potential unlicensed suppliers.
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump will nominate former pharmaceutical executive and industry lobbyist Alex Azar to the top post at the Department of Health and Human Services, according to news reports.
Trump tweeted on Monday: “He will be a star for better healthcare and lower drug prices.”
The nomination follows the resignation of Trump’s first HHS secretary, Tom Price. Price left HHS in September amid an investigation into his use of charter flights instead of cheaper commercial flights.
Currently, Azar is the chairman and founder of Seraphim Strategies, which provides strategic consulting and counsel on biopharmaceutical and health insurance industries. Previously, he was president of Lilly USA, an affiliate of Eli Lilly, from January 2012 to January 2017.
Azar has worked at HHS before: From 2005-07, he was a deputy secretary in the department, and from 2001-05, he was general counsel.
Azar’s nomination must be approved by the Senate.
WASHINGTON – A “Dear Colleague” letter asking representatives to sign on to H.R. 4229 is being circulated by Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., and Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa.
The pair introduced the bill with 53 original co-sponsors Nov. 2. It currently has 58 co-sponsors.
H.R. 4229 would extend a retroactive delay of a second round of reimbursement cuts from Jan. 1, 2017, to Jan. 1, 2019, as well as address a “double-dip” reimbursement cut to oxygen therapy. The delay was passed per a provision in the 21st Century Cures Act.
The letter states: This equipment cannot save lives if it isn’t made available to those who need it most, especially in rural communities where we know barriers to access healthcare already exist.
A recent survey by Dobson DaVanzo & Associates and commissioned by AAHomecare, found that more than 60% of case managers saw an increase in the number of Medicare beneficiaries who have developed medical complications, received emergency care or were readmitted to a hospital due to issues related to obtaining proper and/or timely access to DME.
AAHomecare releases rehab white paper
WASHINGTON – AAHomecare’s Complex Rehab and Mobility Council has created a new white paper that clearly explains the difference between complex rehab technology and standard mobility products. The three-page paper describes the products, including photos of products and their accessories, as well as the clinical/personnel involvement required in each category. ‘Many outside the industry don’t understand the fundamental differences between the two categories,” said Nancy Froslie, CMR chair and manager of district store operations for Sanford HealthCare Accessories.
CMS offers appeals settlement
WASHINGTON – CMS recently announced a low volume appeals settlement for Part A and Part B appeals at the Office of Medicare Hearings and Appeal and the Medical appeals Council. The option is limited to appellants with less than 500 appeals and each individual appeal must total $9,000 or less. The settlement is for 62% of the allowed amount minus the copay, according to a bulletin from AAHomecare. As of August 2017, the Office of Medicare Hearings & Appeals had 591,962 total appeals pending—an increase of 300% since 2016. The number of DMEPOS appeals as of Oct. 12 is 291,047.
CMS to update definitions for shoe inserts
WASHINGTON – CMS has proposed revising the definitions of custom fabricated and therapeutic inserts in Appendix C of the DMEPOS Quality Standards to account for new technology. Historically, the best way to fit an individual with diabetes for inserts was to create a physical model of their foot using negative impression. CMS now acknowledges, however, that advancements in computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing technology eliminate the need to create an actual model of the patient’s foot. Instead, CAD/CAM technology now allows the direct milling of an insert without molding or negative impression. CMS has scheduled a Special Open Door Forum on Nov. 28 at 2 p.m. EST to discuss the changes. Stakeholders may email comments on the changes to ReducingProviderBurden@cms.hhs.gov through Dec. 11. CMS plans to finalize the revisions prior to Jan. 1, 2018. The American Orthotics and Prosthetics Association was among the groups pressuring CMS to make the changes.
Sommetrics enters Canadian market
SAN DIEGO – Sommetrics has partnered with AvantSleep to distribute its sleep apnea therapy system, aerSleep, to Canadians diagnosed with OSA. AvantSleep will distribute aerSleep, which uses negative external air pressure to maintain an open airway during sleep, in select markets to start, with a full launch planned in 2018. Sommetrics recently received a Health Canada Medical Device License for aerSleep, paving the way for it to be marketed there. The services of AvantSleep, a network of sleep therapy clinics across Canada, include home sleep testing and treatments.
Munson Healthcare moves, expands
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – Munson Healthcare Home Medical Equipment has a new location and more space, according to a local newspaper. The new, 5,252-square-foot space will allow the provider to expand its product offerings, which include scooters, lift chairs, urologicals and compression garment. Munson will offer more breast pumps, nebulizers and respiratory supplies in its expanded “Kid’s Corner,” and has added therapeutic shoes in response to customer demand.
Aeroflow consolidates inventory under one roof
ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Aeroflow Healthcare has purchased a new building and fulfillment facility in Asheville, N.C., in a move that the company says is a reflection of its continued growth and increased productivity. The new 35,000-square-foot facility will consolidate product inventories currently housed in two separate locations in Asheville, resulting in increased efficiency and improved rates of delivery, according to a press release. Aeroflow will employ about 30 procurement, distribution and clinical services employees at the facility when it opens this fall, with plans to add about 50 employees by the end of 2018. The facility is less than four miles from Aeroflow’s corporate headquarters on Sweeten Creek Road.
Sports ‘N Spokes names winners
PHOENIX – Sports ‘N Spokes, the sports and recreation magazine of the Paralyzed Veterans of America, has announced the winners of its “Get Out & Enjoy Life” photo contest. First place goes to Ashlee Lundvall of Wyoming for her photo of fly-fishing. Lundvall will receive a custom-built Razorback wheelchair courtesy of Colours Wheelchairs, a GOEL T-shirt and the cover spot on the November issue of S’NS magazine. Second place goes to Seth Conroy of Nevada for his photo of Horseshoe Bend in Arizona; and third place goes to Ismael Arena of New York for his photo of “Columbia off-roading.” It’s the seventh year that S’NS, along with the Spina Bifida Association and Cure Medical, have sponsored the contest.
ResMed adds remote patient monitoring to AirMini
SAN DIEGO – ResMed’s AirMini, a travel CPAP device, is now connected to its AirView remote patient monitoring platform. The connectivity between AirMini and AirView allows HME providers to see a patient’s nightly data, verify adherence and spot any issues. ResMed sees monitoring as a key factor in proper therapy, citing a recent study that found 87% of patients were adherent when remote and self-monitoring tools were used. Once patients download or update the latest "AirMini by ResMed 1.2" app and opt in to upload data to the cloud, providers can view the same reports, charts, notes and therapy thresholds in AirView just like they can for ResMed's bedside Air10 devices. Providers can register their patients' AirMini devices through the AirView, Brightree or U-Sleep patient management platforms. ResMed launched the AirMini earlier this year.
NSM completes expanded ops center
NASHVILLE – National Seating & Mobility has completed the expansion and remodeling of its operations center in Chattanooga, Tenn. To commemorate the occasion, NSM hosted a grand opening and ribbon cutting on Nov. 3, with guests of honor that included NSM CEO Bill Mixon and Republican state Sen. Bo Watson. The operations center now has more than 20,000 square feet of additional space to accommodate the company’s continued growth. The center, which now features an open design and break rooms, houses NSM’s payer relations, accounting, billing and collection departments, employing more than 200.
NJ train operators screened for sleep disorders
HOBOKEN N.J. – NJ Transit has taken 44 train engineers out of service until they meet treatment requirements for sleep apnea, according to NJ.com. NJ Transit screened 373 engineers for sleep disorders. Out of those engineers, 57 were taken out of service until a full sleep study could be conducted: 13 were found not to have a sleep disorder. The National Transportation Safety Board has confirmed that an engineer operating the train that crashed Sept. 29, 2016, suffered from severe sleep apnea. One woman was killed and 108 people were injured.
Short takes: Universal Software, Metamason
Metamason has been named a CES 2018 Innovation Awards Honoree for its Miia nasal hybrid mask. The mask leverages 3D scans of each patient’s face to ensure a custom mask. The awards are evaluated on aesthetic and design qualities, intended use/function and user value, unique/novel features present and how the design and innovation of the product directly compares to other products in the marketplace…Universal Software Solutions has released HDMS Scheduler, a tool to increase interoperability between different departments. The HDMS Schedulers allows providers to define appointment location, room types, professionals conducting the appointment, and the appointment types themselves.
PITTSBURGH – Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have secured a nearly $5 million grant to continue their work developing standards to improve product quality and safety for wheelchairs.
Wheelchair quality and safety are a growing problem, the researchers say, with about 50% of users saying they have experienced a breakdown in a six-month period, according to research they have already conducted.
“This grant allows us to have a real impact,” said Jon Pearlman, an associate professor at UPitt. “In the research community, you’re often awarded grants for thinking outside the box and for working on products that might be realistic in 10 years. This is more practical.”
The “Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center” grant, awarded by the National Institute on Disability, a federal government agency within the U.S. Department of Education, will provide more than $900,000 each year for five years.
Researchers plan to spend the first few years of the grant improving or adding to existing standards, particularly related to cushion load-bearing performance, cushion durability, caster durability, and wheel rolling resistance, and the remaining few years applying those standards to different products.
“We want to show the differentiations between products and the usefulness of that information,” said Patricia Karg, an assistant professor at UPitt. “We want to translate standards into strategies and techniques for selecting products based on performance.”
The problem with existing standards, which have been developed over decades by national and international standards committees: They’re largely influenced by product manufacturers, the researchers say.
“The awarding of this grant will allow for some unbiased participation,” said David Brienza, a professor and associate dean of research at UPitt. “Manufacturers have a large stake in standards and how they’re developed, and they support the process. This balances that process.”
Ultimately, the researchers envision their work being used in several ways, including helping funding sources make reimbursement decisions, and clinicians, providers and users make product decisions.
“It’s in this way that standards, which are often voluntary and which until now didn’t differentiate between products, will get teeth,” Brienza said.
GOLETA, Calif. – Despite headwinds from a new CRM system, Inogen’s direct-to-consumer channel still recorded an impressive 43.5% increase in sales for the third quarter of 2017.
“There has been a learning curve and in spite of that, productivity in Q3 improved versus 2016,” CFO Ali Bauerlein, told investors during a conference call on Nov. 7 to discuss the company’s latest financial results. “So we’re really proud of our sales team’s ability to hire and train personnel.”
Inogen reported total revenues of $69 million for the third quarter, up 26.8% from the same period last year. Sales revenue was $63.1 million, up 33.8%; and rental revenue was $5.9 million, down 18.7%.It reported net income of $7.3 million, up 39.9%.
With company officials calling 2017 “an investment year,” Inogen may be just getting started.
“While we’re starting to see contributions, we expect the people we hire in the second half of this year to contribute more materially in 2018,” Bauerlein said.
That’s a big reason why, for 2018, Inogen expects revenues to be in the $295 million to $205 million range. By comparison, for 2017, the company expects revenues of $239 million to $243 million.
Asked whether Inogen’s product pipeline includes a POC with connected technology, company officials downplayed the trend—for now. CEO Scott Wilkinson noted that, unlike for CPAP devices, there are no compliance requirements for oxygen concentrators, minimizing the importance of the technology.
“If we go back to what’s really important, it’s the right reliability and the right price—that’s what we’ve focused on,” he said. “It’s patient preference, as well, and they don’t have the burning need for connectivity right now. These wireless launches that we’re seeing—we think it’s a solution that’s ahead of its time.”
Still, Wilkinson believes there’s a “long-term place for connectivity in oxygen.”
“That’s why our engineers are working on it,” he said. “That’s also why we’ve built a product that’s connectivity ready. We’re not ignoring (the trend); it’s just not the most important thing right now.”
Inogen’s business-to-business channel also recorded an impressive increase, 41.7%, adding more grist to the mill that an increasing number of traditional HME providers are converting their fleets to POCs.
“Based on CMS data, the share of POCs in Medicare oxygen therapy was 8% in 2015 and 9.1% in 2016, and that doesn’t include patient cash sales,” Wilkinson said. “POCs are still the fastest growing modality and they still have significant growth opportunity before they reach full market saturation.”