Be united, be passionate, build champions

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

It was with great respect and pride that we watched Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., deliver his keynote address at the June AAHomecare Legislative Conference. Although Sen. Specter is a national leader and involved in shaping some of the most important issues facing our country, it is clear that over the course of the five years we've built our relationship with him, he has taken the time to get to know and understand our industry.
Sen. Specter cares about the important and noble work our industry does for Americans with disabilities and the reimbursement challenges we face. Most importantly, he is acting to ensure that our work can continue to be done effectively. He's done a great deal to help us in the past, and he's engaged in doing more. Some of the discussions he had at the conference with Pennsylvania providers like Georgie Blackburn, vice president of government relations and legislative affairs for Blackburn's, really struck a chord with him. He has been intensely involved and is emotionally invested in achieving a fair outcome. In short, he has become a champion for our industry, and we are proud that we were able to help get that started.
When Pride first opened a dialogue with Sen. Specter, it was clear that we shared an interest in improving the way the HME segment of our healthcare system was addressed. Sen. Specter was receptive to our message that products and services, which allow in-home care and independence in the community, save Medicare money and are vastly preferred--compared to acute or long-term care-- by those who require them. The more legislators learn the facts about our business, the more they support our efforts to get fair treatment.
With our industry facing difficult legislative challenges, we must remain unified, passionate and fiercely vocal in efforts to gain allies in Washington, D.C., and recruit legislative champions of the same caliber as Sen. Specter.
When we researched other successful small industries where the government is a major payer, we found a clear formula to achieving fair treatment: Be united, be funded, be passionate and build champions.
Be United
All stakeholders must get involved and support those in Washington, D.C., who support us. Manufacturers and providers must work together to educate beneficiaries on the issues and encourage them to make personal pleas to their legislators to protect their rights. Only when we all work together can we maximize our efforts and results.
Be Funded
Providers and manufacturers must support organizations like AAHomecare, NCART and their state associations. These groups work hard to build relationships with policymakers and to develop the talking points and data necessary to ensure a strong and compelling message. Providers also need to invest in their future by purchasing from manufacturers involved in fighting the fight. To do otherwise takes resources from those investing heavily in the short- and long-term health of the industry: That's counterproductive and will make it more difficult for our industry to succeed.
Be Passionate
To effectively enact change, we must be impassioned and relentless. Irresponsible legislation and policies should make us indignant. Yet, at a recent fundraiser, a very influential member of Congress pulled us aside and said that, while he thought our cause was worthy, our group "just didn't seem angry enough." Legislators only truly listen to "very angry" constituents.
Build Champions
Pride is committed to securing more industry champions like Sen. Specter. There is an immediate need for all stakeholders to actively pursue their legislators and build more champions to join the fight. In addition to Congress, the presidential candidates provide a terrific opportunity to build champions. After all, the next president's administration will have the authority to reign in competitive bidding and other ill-conceived policies. The time to take action is now.
The demographic trends are in our favor, and with reasonable and responsible regulations, including higher quality standards and mandatory accreditation, our industry is well positioned for growth and future deregulation. Manufacturing efficiencies and technological advancements have made it possible to provide reasonably priced products that benefit the people who need them far more than costlier alternatives. We simply need a legislative environment shaped by common sense to deliver them. If the industry is united, impassioned and supportive of those who support us, we will have more champions and see positive outcomes from them.
We respectfully suggest that the industry has to change its behavior and get more aligned with this formula. We control our destiny. Industries that have fought similar battles before us have developed a formula for success. Those that followed the formula succeeded; those that did not failed.
Scott Meuser is the chairman and CEO of Pride Mobility Products Corp. Dan Meuser is the president of Pride USA.