Beneficiary calls Medicare 'Murder Care'

Friday, November 30, 2007

MONTGOMERY, Ala. - When Congress considered reducing the oxygen cap from 36 to 18 months in September, a Birmingham, Ala., TV station aired a story that featured up-in-arms Medicare beneficiaries and home medical equipment providers. One beneficiary on oxygen told viewers that Medicare should be called "Murder Care."
"He shook his finger at the camera and told viewers to call their Congressmen and tell them not to reduce the oxygen cap," said Michael Hamilton, executive director of the Alabama Durable Medical Equipment Association (ADMEA). "He was quite emphatic."
Congress decided not to expand children's health insurance by reducing the oxygen cap and making other Medicare cuts, but the association knows that continuous publicity will help keep the cap off the table. So far, the ADMEA has helped to get three stories aired on area TV stations. Additionally, Hamilton recently spent 30 minutes on a local radio talk show discussing the dangers of reducing the oxygen cap.
A big reason for the ADMEA's success: Cynthia Gould, a former local TV reporter. In late August, the association raised $5,000 to hire Gould as a media consultant on an ongoing basis. In addition to using her contacts to secure stories, Gould helps members craft and place letters to the editor in local newspapers.
"Grassroots lobbying may be old news, but we decided we needed to get serious about it," said Stewart Pace, a provider who sits on ADMEA's board of directors. "We wanted to go public with the problem."
The ADMEA's efforts mesh nicely with the industry's larger efforts to put home medical equipment back on firm ground, Hamilton said.
"At Medtrade, AAHomecare raised about $70,000 for a national PR campaign," he said. "These efforts to improve the industry's image, including ours, will add up."