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East coast islands feeling strain of reimbursement cuts

From HOMES Hill Update

John Curelli (Island Home Medical), Karyn Estrella (HOMES), Rep. Bill Keating (D-Mass.)

There is no doubt that taking care of people on an island like Martha’s Vineyard has its challenges, and no one knows that better than John Curelli of Island Home Medical in Vineyard Haven. He has been the sole HME provider on the island since 1974. Costs to serve this population are 25 percent higher right out of the gate. Add the Medicare reimbursement cuts of more than 50 percent and the challenges are insurmountable.

John made the trip to the Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Wareham recently (his second time off the island – ever!) because he felt it was important to speak to his congressman, Rep. Bill Keating (D-Mass.) directly about the challenges he faces every day. He talked about the call he received last weekend from Massachusetts General Hospital from a discharge planner trying to send a hospice patient who needs oxygen home to Nantucket. He sadly said he was not able to provide the equipment; a difficult decision for a man who has spent his life taking care of people.

John has received many calls from the hospital and residents looking for an oxygen provider since the July 1 Medicare reimbursement cuts went into effect. As previously reported, Cape Medical Supply of Sandwich, Massachusetts, stopped servicing Nantucket on July 1 because the new reimbursement rates were inadequate for them to continue to provide the level of service they had been able to offer. “Our members are in this industry because they want to help people,” said Karyn Estrella of HOMES to Rep. Keating. “It is not in their nature to turn people away who need help, but they have no choice because the reimbursement rate is well below their costs.” Rep. Keating clearly understands the issues and will be supporting legislation to fix the bidding program. A special thank you to John Curelli for making the trip!