North Carolina’s leader in home medical equipment advocacy and education, NCAMES, has launched the informational clearinghouse SaveJobsNC.com to educate state and local leaders as well as Medicare beneficiaries about the effects of pending job losses due to federal health care regulations.
Industry experts are projecting 600 positions will be cut in the greater Charlotte area due to new Medicare bidding rules implemented by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in Washington, DC. Between 1,200-1,600 job cuts are expected statewide as HME providers across North Carolina are either blocked from servicing patients who use Medicare to pay for their essential equipment, or are forced by CMS to provide services at sub-industry prices. The first round of bidding for CMS approvals in Charlotte was just completed two weeks ago, with hundreds of HME providers left out in the cold, while others winning contracts are scrambling to provide services in the face of massive revenue cuts.
“We don’t know whether those providers who were offered contract bids are the biggest losers or those who did not receive an offering were the biggest winners,” said Bill Griffin, owner of Griffin Home Health Care in Charlotte. Griffin’s company bid in five different HME categories and was awarded one contract to service patients needing oxygen equipment. Echoing sentiment heard throughout the industry, he feels some equipment is too labor-intensive to service at bid prices.
“I can’t deliver a walker for $28,” Griffin explained, pointing to one of the categories currently in the bidding process which industry veterans feel is heading to becoming a mail order component that patients will have to manage on their own.
“The bidding process is going to change the face of the entire healthcare industry from Medicaid to Medicare down to insurance agencies and home health care providers,” he said, adding, “The customer service component we currently know is on the way out the door; in essence, it’s leaving.”
SaveJobsNC.com contains information on the history of the restrictive Medicare bidding system implemented by CMS late last year, in addition to details on “suicide bidding” undertaken by HME providers to continue to provide mobility equipment, oxygen systems, hospital beds, and other in-home supplies used by tens of thousands of North Carolina seniors and other patients instead of expensive long-term institutional care.
“The Feds are forcing local HME providers in North Carolina to absorb an average 32 percent decrease in Medicare reimbursements, otherwise they won’t allow them to continue to service patients who need their help,” said Beth Bowen, NCAMES Executive Director.
“At the same time, home medical equipment is not getting any cheaper for HME providers to purchase and service; in fact, it’s getting more expensive,” she said, adding, “The only solution for a small business to stay open with an average 32 percent decrease in revenue and increasing expenses is to slash staff and services, or, sadly, be forced to close its doors.” Bowen pointed to rising costs in equipment purchasing, delivery to patients’ homes, transportation, gasoline, labor, and the equipment itself as examples of every day challenges HME providers already face. Combined with lost revenue for both CMS bidding winners and losers, many of her member companies are scaling-back services and staffing or closing their doors altogether.
Bowen said one of the reasons NCAMES developed SaveJobsNC.com was to shine the spotlight on a bi-partisan legislative solution to the problem, H.R. 3790, which has wide support in the U.S. House of Representatives. SaveJobsNC.com includes information on the bill, along with a list of which North Carolina elected officials in the House and Senate support the bill and which do not.
Other information on SaveJobsNC.com includes Medicare bidding myths and realities; HME care facts; and links to state and national news articles on the bidding issue.
“With the President’s recess appointment of Dr. Donald Berwick to permanently head CMS, we’re seeing more stories about the bidding issue than ever before with protests and HME providers speaking out against this misguided program,” Bowen said, adding, “We’re trying to get the word out about its negative effects here in North Carolina and do something about it before it’s too late.”
With close to 300 member companies and growing, the North Carolina Association for Medical Equipment Services (NCAMES.org) is the statewide leader in preserving access to safe, affordable, and therapeutic home medical equipment. We provide advocacy and education to home medical equipment (HME) providers statewide dedicated to helping North Carolinas growing senior population and patients of all ages gain more mobility and experience a high quality of life in the comfort and privacy of their own homes. NCAMES was instrumental in passing the nation’s first HME licensure law which has been working to ensure quality home health care since 1995, and fully supports pending legislation H.R. 3790 to continue HME access for patients in need. For more information, visit the website or call (919)-387-1221.