AAHomecare CEO calls it quits

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Tom Connaughton, who built a coalition of opposition that’s held off competitive bidding and AWP price cuts, is resigning as CEO of AAHomecare.

Connaughton, 60, has accepted a new job as head of the Washington, D.C. office for Cook Group Incorporated, a medical technology manufacturer headquartered in Bloomington, Indiana. “It was an offer,” said one source, “that he couldn’t refuse.”

His resignation, tendered some 10 weeks prior to the expiration of his three-year contract, surprised AAHomecare chairman, Steve Knoll. The contract, said Knoll, was “an automatic renewal.”

“[Incoming chair] Joel [Mills] and I had both preliminarily discussed it with him [Connaughton], and we were heading toward contract renewal,” said Knoll. “We’re very sorry to see him move on, but we recognize that that’s what happens when you get really good people. Other people recognize their talent and their effectiveness. That’s what happened with Tom.”

Connaughton has agreed to stay on until AAHomecare hires his replacement.

The association hired Connaughton in the spring of 2000 following the Dec. 1999 merger of the National Association for Medical Equipment Services (NAMES), the Health Industry Distributors Association’s (HIDA) home care section and the Home Health Services and Staffing Association. At the time, Connaughton’s boosters hailed the incoming executive as political operator who had a knack for marshaling forces to focus on a common objective — an attribute that’s served the association well as it put off competitive bidding.

“Tom’s really good at herding cats and keeping everyone on message,” said Dave Williams, Invacare’s director of government relations. “That’ll be the biggest loss.”

The most noteworthy coalition of Connaughton’s popular stewardship has been The Coalition for Access to Medical Services, Equipment and Technology (CAMSET, a group of 20 consumer advocacy organizations and trade associations that opposed competitive bidding. The coalition was able to effectively communicate a message that sewed seeds of doubts in legislator’s minds about the viability of competitive bidding.

“Tom did a fabulous job of keeping all those horses in the same harness and pulling in the same direction,” said Knoll. “His political strategy and knowledge of how the town works and his ability to build consensus within the industry — it made all the difference this last year.”

That savvy, according to Williams, is why he called Connaughton’s departure “a tremendous loss.”

“At a critical time, to lose that type of institutional knowledge and skill, it’s very bad,” said Williams.

Knoll sounds a less dire note: “He does leave us in good shape, with good direction, with good people at AAHomecare. We are going to look at this as an opportunity to build on what Tom has put in place for us. To build on what Tom has created.” HME