AAH chair: This is no time 'to pull away'

Monday, July 31, 2006

Rather than pass the torch during these turbulent times, AAHomecare's battle-tested chairman, Tom Ryan, will stay on in his role as the association's leader for another year. In addition to Ryan, AAHomecare's entire executive board, which usually rotates positions annually, also will remain in place--a move intended to provide stability and continuity as the association transitions to a new CEO. The association's search committee hoped to hire a new CEO by late July or early August, said Ryan. Former CEO Kay Cox resigned earlier this year. HME News talked to Ryan recently about the CEO search and other industry issues.
HME News: Do you think reimbursement issues, competitive bidding and other challenges will be a turn off for potential CEO candidates?
Tom Ryan: I would hope a candidate would come in willing take those challenges in stride. I would hope that most motivated people want a challenge. You can look at the growth and demographics and say this is a great potential industry. That makes this an exciting position.
HME: The past year has been tough for the industry, but are there some things to take heart in?
Ryan: During the budget debate, we mobilized the largest grassroots campaign we've had in a long time. To me, that was a success. The industry's message struck home with a lot of people.
HME: Even though Congress passed the 36-month cap on Medicare oxygen reimbursement earlier this year, it was impressive to watch providers and beneficiaries work together against that legislation.
Ryan: That is something people don't realize: The amount of noise we made on a grassroots level on the Hill. We were getting called up and asked, 'What are you doing? You are getting your oxygen patients all concerned and upset.' Well, you know what, that was exactly what we were doing, letting them know that there was a bad bill out there.
HME: AAHomecare is a leader in an effort to develop a new reimbursement methodology for how Medicare pays for home oxygen. Could that include a switch from modality neutral to modality specific?
Ryan: It is time to reinvent the system. We have to come up with something we can take to our legislators and say, 'This is what we've come up with.' We have to come up with something that makes sense for everyone.
HME: Many providers appear content to sit on the sidelines and let others lobby for industry interests. Does that bother you?
Ryan: If you rely on entitlement programs for revenue and you're CEO of a company, you should have in your budget a line item for advocacy, and that has to be for your national and state associations. I believe more providers are beginning to get it. There are people who understand Washington and how it works and they are active AAHomecare members. They understand that you need to stick with the program through thick and thin. Just because there were some losses, that is no time to retrench and pull away.