Georgia Militia rides to the rescue

Thursday, November 30, 2006

ATLANTA - Providers nationwide stepped up to the plate this election year, meeting with legislators en masse to lobby for HME-related bills. But when the industry needed to hit the ball out of the park in one state, they called on a group of providers called the Georgia Militia.
The militia, headed up by Tom Riddle, Todd Tyson, John Rhodes and David Petsch, has traveled all over Georgia and to Washington, D.C. D.C, to meet with each of the state's 13 congressmen and its two senators. It has had a hand in getting eight congressmen to sign onto to H.R. 3559, a bill designed to lessen the blow of national competitive bidding.
Additionally, the militia has donated $25,000 to various congressman and senators willing to support its causes.
"The basis of the whole thing is that we're not afraid to get in front of them and ask the hard questions," said Riddle, owner of the Albany, Ga.-based MRS Homecare. "You have to ask the hard questions before you give out the hard bucks. People don't understand that they put their pants on just like you and me."
The members of the militia are all members of the Georgia Association of Medical Equipment Services. But the group struck out on its own, so it could be more nimble and quick.
"We wanted to be more aggressive," said Todd Tyson, president of Hi-Tech Healthcare in Norcross, Ga. "We didn't want to wait for an attorney every time we wanted to give a congressman money. It was just easier for us to move than for us to move GAMES."
The militia has become a tight network of more than a dozen providers who are on-call to contact or visit congressman "at the drop of a hat," Riddle said. It doesn't matter if the congressman represents their district or not--the militia realizes providers are in this together.
That's what sets apart Riddle and the other providers who are part of the militia, said John Gallagher, vice president of government relations for The VGM Group.
"They have a saying, 'Put your combats on,'" said Gallagher, who's credited with giving the group its nickname. "They don't give up. If we had five or 10 providers like them in every state, we'd be much better off."