Florida providers get the FAHCS

Thursday, April 30, 2009

DORAL, Fla.--Citing a “distinct lack of leadership” for Florida providers, several members of the Accredited Medical Equipment Providers Association (AMEPA) in March formed a new state association.

The Florida Alliance of Home Care Services (FAHCS) launched the same week that the 27-year-old Florida Association of Medical Equipment Services (FAMES) announced it was restructuring (See related story).

“Last year was one of the roughest times in the industry and we felt like we didn’t have a voice,” said provider Roger Ribas, president of FAHCS and vice president of Doral-based Hometown Medical Supply. “Going forward, we need to have some kind of state representation.”

AMEPA - which formed last year to fight Medicare issues like national competitive bidding and has members from outside of Florida - often fielded calls from providers on state issues, said Rob Brant, executive director of AMEPA and a board member of the new association.

With AMEPA members from outside Florida, “We couldn’t spend the funds to go up to Tallahassee to deal with state issues,” he said.

Florida providers face a host of state-specific challenges, including changes to state licensure and a possible competitive bidding program for Medicaid.

“If we don’t react - if we don’t educate lawmakers and patients - we are going to be in trouble,” said Ribas.

Fraud is another hot-button issue in Florida. It’s as if there is an “invisible line” between the northern and southern parts of the state, and providers located below that line are automatically considered suspect, said Sean Schwinghammer, executive director of FAHCS.

“Even if you have a long-standing, accredited business, you’re held to a much different standard and your license is more easily threatened,” said Schwinghammer. “If you are going to have different standards, at least have some clarity behind it, because this unspoken double standard is really unfair.”

The new association will operate independently of AMEPA, although AMEPA members in Florida will automatically become members of FAHCS when they renew.