Association membership: Expense or investment
When it comes to deciding whether or not to join or renew membership with an HME association, the decision maker needs to ask this question: Is this an investment for my business or an expense? At first blush, it would appear to be an expense. I believe that many HME providers who are members of their associations view their membership dues as an expense and I can understand why. There is a certain mystery to associations and the work they do. Many of the benefits that come along with association membership are intangible, so it is easy to see that, when push comes to shove and the bottom line has to be met, association membership dues end up on the chopping block. Some companies, however, view their membership as an investment. Would I appear biased if I sided with the latter? Maybe. But here is why I believe that HME associations bring value to their members and why membership should be viewed as an investment rather than an expense.
When your primary payers are Medicare and Medicaid, you need to understand their ever-changing regulations. Just when you get to the point where you understand the regulation, it will change. HME associations have the ability to bring the top industry consultants to their members through educational meetings, webinars, articles, etc. to explain complex regulation changes. Sure, the individual company could figure it out for itself. But by being a member of their association, it will be easier to obtain this information, as well as network with other HME providers (more on networking later).
Associations typically have good relationships with state Medicaid departments and work to educate them about our industry and minimize reimbursement cuts. There is definitely strength in numbers. If the association represents the majority of providers, it has the clout to speak for the industry. In recent years, I have seen an increase in the dialogue between Medicaid departments and HME associations working in a more collaborative manner.
Grass roots lobbying
“All politics is local”—so the saying goes—and HME associations are positioned to educate, coordinate and motivate their members into action on the local level. Flying into Washington, D.C., to lobby on the Hill is a great experience, but there is equal effectiveness in meeting in the local district. An association is able to create position papers and talking points to help their members understand the issues and important legislation. It is critical for the member of Congress to hear from constituents, not just the association. Associations help empower members to be advocates for their business and our industry.
One of the intangible benefits of membership is the ability to network. Being able to develop friendships with your colleagues has a value that cannot be measured. Association meetings are the perfect venue to develop these friendships.
These are just three reasons why you should be a member of your HME association. Invest in them—and you invest in your business.
—Karyn Estrella, CAE, is executive director of the Home Medical Equipment and Services Association of New England (HOMES).