From: HME News

By Theresa Flaherty, Managing Editor

SCARBOROUGH, Maine – Why didn’t someone think of this sooner? A petition to stop competitive bidding has picked up nearly 8,000 signatures in two weeks.

National Sleep Therapy (NST) launched the petition on change.org to get beneficiaries and caregivers to speak up about the dreaded program.

“I’ve always thought real change needs to happen at the patient/voter/constituent level,” said Peter Falkson, CEO and cofounder of NST. “If we could get all the patients involved—the people that actually get the care and benefit from it—they have a much bigger, more important voice than we do as owners of businesses.”

That voice has been missing so far, say providers.

In fact, CMS has said many times that it has received only a handful of complaints from beneficiaries, a sign, the agency says, that the program is working.

“If the beneficiaries aren’t speaking out, the assumption is, they are doing OK, they are getting their oxygen, they are getting their wheelchair,” said Falkson.

Falkson can’t take all the credit for the petition, he says.

“My 10-year-old daughter was part of class that did a project (that went viral),” he said. “I’d never even heard of change.org.”

Faulkson also credits NEMED with helping to re-tool the petition to give it a broader message—and reach a broader audience. Originally, it targeted only its CPAP patients. Now the hope is that other HME providers will ask their own patients to sign the petition and pass it along.

Provider Gary Sheehan reached out to about 500 patients who subscribe to the company’s patient newsletter.

“It’s not a heavy lift to create and blast it out,” said Sheehan, president/CEO of Sandwich, Mass.-based Cape Medical Supply. “We figured why not try and supplement (existing efforts) and get more people aware of the issue.”

Still, Sheehan acknowledges it’s tough to get beneficiaries engaged in industry efforts.

“The beneficiaries don’t really care until you tell them you can’t provide to them anymore,” he said. “Even at that point, it’s the vocal minority that would get up and say anything at all.”

The petition has been picked up by state and national industry associations, including AAHomecare, NAIMES and AMEPA, and member groups like The MED Group and The VGM Group.