AAH hustles for attendees

Friday, February 29, 2008

WASHINGTON - Industry supporters are putting up a lot of money to encourage providers to attend AAHomecare's annual Legislative Conference.
"That is the purpose of having a war chest," said Tim Pederson, CEO of WestMed Rehab in Rapid City, S.D., and a member of the Midwest Association for Medical Equipment Services (MAMES). "If we don't use it now to help, we may not have an industry to worry about spending it on later."
This year's conference will be held March 4-6, 2008, at the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel in Washington, D.C. With lawmakers likely to revisit reducing the oxygen cap and eliminating the first-month purchase option for power wheelchairs later this year, attendance is key to the event's success. That's why many industry organizations are going above and beyond to that end.
To encourage its 21 board members to attend the Legislative Conference, for example, MAMES has offered to give each $1,000 to help defray expenses, which typically run about $1,500 between registration, travel and hotel expenses. If a board member can't attend, MAMES will contribute $500 to the member who takes his place, provided the member is from the same state. Last year, MAMES gave $500 to any member who trekked to the conference and logged its best attendance ever: 10, said Executive Director Rose Schafhauser.
"We keep telling our members that we have to get active, and we're trying to put our money where our mouth is," she said.
The VGM Group is also pitching in. It will give a state association $500 if it sends at least one member to the conference. Regional associations that represent five or more states get $1,000 if they send at least two members to the event, said John Gallagher, VGM's vice president of government relations.
To be eligible for the scholarships, recipients must be association members who have not previously attended the fly-in event. To gain maximum participation, VGM will offer an additional $500 to each state association that brings three or more first-time attendees, and $1,000 to each regional association that brings six or more eligible recipients.
"Time is a factor and money is a factor," said Beth Bowen, executive director of the North Carolina and the Virginia state associations. "We can't give anyone more time, but we can help with the money part."
New England Medical Equipment Dealers (NEMED) accepted the challenge. There are 22 congressional districts in New England, and NEMED had 19 covered as of Jan. 29, said Executive Director Karyn Estrella.
"I like friendly competition," she said. "Our members responded."
NEMED allocated $400 to each congressional district to defray travel expenses.
Last year, 225 people attended the event. In late January, AAHomecare was "way ahead of where we were last year registration-wise," said Michael Reinemer, vice president of communications and policy.