Forget your congressman, develop relationships with their aides

Monday, August 28, 2017

I always enjoy reading about our industry’s attempts at influencing the minds of our elected officials. Frequently, I think that after the past 20 years of negative reimbursement the industry’s owners and leaders might try to change tactics. I don’t like political discussions in today’s climate, but the reality is that home medical equipment relies on government spending.

I don’t think any of the last three Republican-controlled Congresses (with or without Tom Price) would be looking to add cost to the Medicare program, which is what bid relief would accomplish. How many of your readers betted on Republicans the past few election cycles? Did manufacturers that despise the Obamacare tax on medical devices forget that they rely more on financially viable providers?

You might also believe Republicans support small business, limited business regulations, and everyone’s favorite low taxes. For me, raise my taxes to pay for the Medicare program because lowering your taxes doesn’t help one bit when you are losing money. You only pay the government when you have enjoyed an income. Did some of you forget that most basic principle? If so you might want to think again at the voting booth in the future.

After reading a recent article about getting signatures for a letter (demanding bid relief), I had to chuckle and offer some basic advice. Most of those letter requests are going to wind up in the circular file. The best thing you can do for yourselves (your businesses) is do what every other business leader does when attempting to get your legislators attention and make a campaign donation. I know you have a lot of reasons why not to, but it works. My legislator contacted me personally and he was speaking at the Pacific Association of Medical Equipment Suppliers shortly after. The relationship became so good I actually had my congressman submit claims on my business’ behalf for claims that were denied for bogus reasons that all providers regularly experience. My congressman sent the claims directly to the claims supervisor on paper and a letter of apology and explanation accompanied a check in short order. Have any of you ever requested this of your legislator? How are those appeals working out for you?

Congressional fly-ins sound fun, but they are expensive and they will never be more effective than meeting your legislator in your district at their office. Don’t wait for somebody else to save your business; everyone is too busy saving themselves. The industry lobbyists mean well but the results just aren’t there. So just walk up anytime during a normal workweek and meet with one of the representative’s aides or call and make an appointment. A meeting with an aide might be more productive than bombarding Congress with a flood of suits clamoring for attention at the same time. I know you might miss a happy hour or two, but elected officials can hide in Washington, D.C. Their offices in your district can’t. Develop relationships with the staff at your office and you may be surprised at their willingness to learn more about your business and help you when you need it. Which is now.

Larry Caplan has been an HME industry and patient advocate since 1978. His tenure includes stops at many national providers; he was most recently the president and CEO of his own business, Respicare, in Seattle/Tacoma Wash.