Change perceptions with communication

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Q. Some Medicaid officials seem to look at us with suspicion and I suspect this is due to reports of HME fraud and abuse that have appeared over the years. How do we overcome this suspicion and forge a good working relationship?
A. The best way to change the state's perception of our industry is for them to get to know us. It is unfortunate that some people in state government view our industry as fraudulent because of negative reports, and it is unfair that they "broad-brush" that viewpoint to our entire industry. Establishing, or trying to establish, a good partnership with your state Medicaid program will help to change their perception. I say "try to establish" because it has been my experience that some states are easier to work with than others.
To establish a relationship, begin by becoming a member of your state association and work through them. Compile all the issues that each segment of the industry is dealing with and prepare an agenda. Your state association should send the agenda to your state Medicaid office with a request for a meeting. Sending the agenda at the time of the request gives them a "heads up" and starts to create an atmosphere of good faith. At the meeting, avoid being argumentative. Instead, focus on areas where you can work together and stress that by forming a partnership, processes can be streamlined that will benefit both their office and providers. Take "unbiased" minutes at the meeting and get the state to sign off on them prior to sending to your members.
Through regular meetings, the state will see that the majority of providers are good, ethical people who take pride in the services they provide in their communities. Establishing and keeping the lines of communication moving in a positive direction is the best way to change their perception.

Karyn Estrella is executive director of the New England Medical Equipment Dealers (NEMED) association. Reach her at 508-993-0700 or