Do what’s right and fight the good fight

Friday, October 31, 2008

The recent financial crisis in our country started me thinking about our industry and the implications of macro-economics.

The people we serve need homecare equipment to go on with their lives. This service/product lifeline is not optional to them personally, and the money it saves for the healthcare system is critical. The need for quality home care is of particular concern in light of the ongoing (no, it is not over) fight over so-called competitive bidding. This evil program was stalled by a full-fledged, all-out industry campaign to enact remedial legislation, but that legislation had a cost and did not end the program.

The national financial circus with Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG and who knows how many other companies and programs needing to be “bailed out” by taxpayers is very relevant and clearly illustrates what happens when vital entities are politicized and allowed to become “too big to fail.”

These companies are supposedly being saved because of the devastating effect their failure would have on the rest of the economy. The amounts involved are truly staggering and beyond the comprehension of almost all of us. To put it in some perspective, the amount they are talking about spending for the Fannie Mae bailout, alone, is more than the total that has ever been spent by Medicare on home healthcare equipment in history.

Which brings me to my point. Why would we ever want to risk placing most of our capacity to supply homecare equipment in the hands of one, two or even just a few homecare equipment providers? What if, over a series of bids, a single company became dominant? Come to think of it, why wouldn’t you expect that to happen?

Then, because of mismanagement or the quite foreseeable government “cut backs” in future years, that single entity goes bankrupt? How would it be possible for the few remaining HMEs (assuming there were still some left) to immediately begin serving millions of customers across the country? Or would the Feds simply decide to step in again and “bail out” the bankrupt provider(s) whose low bids put everyone else out of the business?

What then? Will we have effectively nationalized HME? How do you think the numbers and service will end up working out on that? I think it would make the financial and airline messes look like well-managed operations.

Some may see this as a far-fetched scenario, but looking at what has just happened, it seems to me that it is not only possible but also likely. That is, if we let the Feds continue on with the competitive award of limited franchise rights to serve Medicare beneficiaries.

I know that those reading this will already be sensitized to this issue, but it is important that we understand we are fighting the good fight. We are doing what is right for patients and for our country when we fight federal intervention in what should be a consumer business.

Van Miller is CEO and founder of VGM Group, Inc.