Briefing 'elevates' HME

Thursday, June 23, 2011

WASHINGTON - Industry stakeholders last week got another chance to insert home medical equipment into a larger discussion.

At a June 23 congressional briefing, speakers talked about the continuum of care patients receive through rehabilitation, including the role HME plays in that process, said Seth Johnson, vice president of government affairs for Pride Mobility, who attended the hearing. Wheelchairs and other mobility equipment, for example, help patients regain independence after leaving the hospital.

"Any time you have the level of speakers--from the physician and clinician and consumer community--talking about the positive role that DME plays in the overall healthcare continuum, it serves to elevate the DME industry to some degree," said Johnson.

The standing room only crowd heard from speakers like Dr. Gerard Francisco, Congresswoman Gabby Giffords' attending rehabilitation physician. 

As healthcare coverage policies get re-defined under the Affordable Care Act, it's vital to draw attention to the importance of home care, said Don Clayback, executive director of NRRTS, who attended the hearing. Clayback said speakers highlighted this key message:

"Sometimes (rehab) is not given the recognition that's needed from the funding perspective, but it plays a very important role in a person's overall recovery," he said. 

Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare, said the good turnout for the briefing was an indication that staffers want to learn more about the industry. 

"The whole sector needs more exposure--what it is, what it does and what's involved," she said. "A lot of people, unless they have personal experience, don't know much about it."

With government funding for health care under scrutiny, the timing of the briefing was critical.

"We want to highlight this issue, especially in light of all the debt negotiations and deficit negotiations on the Hill," said Alex Bennewith, senior manager of government affairs for AAHomecare, who attended the hearing.