The Inside Track; How Reimbursement Pays the Way – Column

The Inside Track; How Reimbursement Pays the Way – Column – Brief Article

Talk to anyone in the home medical equipment field for very long and the “R” word is bound to come up. Usually, it’s couched between a sigh and a grumble and almost always the voice is tinged with frustration.

“No matter what I ask someone in the HME industry about, it always comes back to reimbursement,” one of our contributing writers told me.

No wonder. “Reimbursement” is a big word that wraps itself around just about every aspect of the industry. It affects your days sales outstanding, your billing functions, your bottom line and, most likely, even your blood pressure. It goes up very seldom, it comes down frequently and at what seems almost a whim. And fairness has little to do with anything in the reimbursement world.

While tangling with reimbursement issues can seem a lonely struggle, every provider in the industry – provided they are not on a cash-only basis – deals with it. As proof, we offer our annual reimbursement survey. In May, we asked providers to tell us their reimbursement practices. They did, and we share their answers beginning on Page 23. Take a look and see how your business compares.

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At this writing, the Health Care Financing Administration’s new moniker is only a week or so old. Does its new name signify a new order – and offer some hope to providers for positive change in the Medicare system? Department of Health and Human Services secretary, Tommy Thompson, and Thomas Scully, administrator for the newly dubbed Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, are saying many of the right things that would lead one to think so (see our news story on Page 10).

Thompson has even ballyhooed home health care before a Senate committee on aging. “Helping individuals stay in their own home for as long as possible is generally the best choice for beneficiary and taxpayer alike,” he said.

We’ll see if he backs up his words with actions or if, as the adage goes, “a rose by any other name is still a rose.”

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At the American Association for Homecare in Alexandria, Va., the association’s new chairman, David Savitsky, is not taking a “wait-and-see attitude” about all this. Indeed, he says, the time for the industry to band together and make its voice heard is now, as a fresh wind of change seems to be blowing through Washington.

“I strongly believe that we must bolster our common interests,” Savitsky said. “It is not enough in this day and age to act merely as a [durable medical equipment] provider, home health agency or rehab dealer, but we must extend ourselves to become part of the community that supports the goal of advancing the quality and practice of health care services in the home.”

He didn’t say it, but the bottom line is that if the HME industry continues to operate with a “business-as-usual” attitude, it will lose out on a chance for a better future. And you don’t always get a second chance – especially for success.

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