Call to arms for HME

Sunday, November 11, 2007

WASHINGTON - Mark Wednesday, Nov. 14, on your calendars, says The VGM Group, which wants to "Shut Down the U.S. Capitol Switchboard" as part of World COPD Day.

Representatives from VGM, Invacare and other industry leaders will travel to the Capitol that day, when the "doc fix" is expected to be on the docket. To stave off a reimbursement cut for doctors, lawmakers are looking everywhere for money, including more cuts to the DME benefit.

"If you can't go to D.C.--fine," said John Gallagher, VGM's vice president of government relations. "But you can make sure every one of your employees, beneficiaries and their families can pick up the phone on one day and call D.C. and say 'Enough is enough.'"

The goal is to get 50,000 people to call their U.S. representatives in D.C. to raise awareness of the HME industry and urge them to co-sponsor bills H.R. 1845 and S. 1428 (Medicare Durable Medical Equipment Access Act), which currently have 134 and 13 co-sponsors, respectively; and H.R. 621 and S. 1484 (Home Oxygen Patient Protection Act), which have 126 and 7 co-sponsors, respectively.

At least 217 co-sponsors are needed for both House bills and 36 needed for both Senate bills.

VGM will host a concurrent Web-telethon, providing live commentary from the day's activities and include a state-by-state list of senators and members of Congress.

VGM is working with a number of state associations to get providers and their beneficiaries involved. There's strength in numbers, says Raul Lopez, president of the Florida Association of Medical Equipment Suppliers (FAMES).

"Start clogging those phone lines," said Lopez. "If we don't all stand together, two or three companies aren't going to make a difference."