AAH makes HME sole focus

Monday, April 30, 2007

ARLINGTON, Va. - AAHomecare's "noble effort" to represent the interests of HME and home healthcare companies ended last month.
In late February, the association's board of directors voted to discontinue the Home Health Advisory Council effective April 1 and represent only the interests of HME. AAHomecare announced the move last month, saying the decision boiled down to dollars and cents.
"When you sharpen the pencil and look back and see where the revenue is coming in, it made sense that we refocus to where our core membership is," said Chairman Tom Ryan.
Over the past few years, home health membership dwindled to the point where it contributed minimally to the association's revenue. To continue lobbying for home health care, AAHomecare would have had to dilute its work on HME at a time when this segment faces tremendous challenges, Ryan said.
"We looked at the dollars, and that segment was no longer viable," said CEO Tyler Wilson. "It was a noble effort. We were just not able to make that segment viable, here, in the long run."
AAHomecare formed in 2000 when NAMES, HIDA Homecare and the Home Health Services Staffing Association joined forces to create a bigger, stronger voice in Washington.
AAHomecare membership includes 600 companies representing 3,000 locations. The vast majority of those members supply some kind of home medical equipment. A number of them, like past chairman Joel Mills, provide home health care and HME.
Despite the association's now single-minded focus on HME, some pure home healthcare providers plan to stay with the association for a variety of reasons, Wilson said. They may, for example, work closely with HME providers or eye the market as a potential expansion opportunity. As such, they want to keep close tabs on what's going on in the industry.
"I don't think anyone sees a big chasm between HME and home health," Wilson said. "But in the current environment, I think it will become increasingly difficult to represent broad coalitions of folks where there is some divergence in their business interests."
Prior to announcing the association's plan to discontinue the Home Health Advisory Council, Todd Brason, CEO of WillCare, a home healthcare company in Buffalo, N.Y., was in line to become chairman of AAHomecare in June. Brason has since resigned from the board (his company has left the association, too), but he has no hard feelings.
"We were successful on a lot of fronts, but as time went on, the challenges for DME were very strong--maybe stronger than they were for home health," he said. "People wanted to see resources and time applied to where they needed to be applied. In the long run, it makes sense for the HME folks."
Brason's only regret: "I would have liked to see more of a transition over the course of the year," he said. "But people wanted to move on it."
Alan Landauer will most likely become the association's next chairman, Ryan said.