Get into politics...or get out of HME

Friday, August 31, 2007

DME suppliers are notoriously bad about being politically active. There are many reasons why, but most are rooted in the past when we could ply our trade without having to even think about Congress. Well, trust me, those days are gone. This industry is made up of more than 100,000 small providers who have been content to let larger providers fight their battles. Since larger providers often have different agendas, I'm not so sure that's a good idea. We have now reached a point where, unless we are able to muster a significant number of providers, we will forever have to accept less and less.
Congress has put us in this spot. Yes, CMS has often taken a statute to places Congress never intended, but it was Congress that gave the mandate to CMS. For years I have heard suppliers blame Medicare and Medicaid for all of their problems when not once have they seen the need to go to the source: their congressman.
Well, it's time to get out of your chair before you have to sell it to pay for products that cost more than Medicare reimburses. Don't get me started on the cost of doing business, which many small providers fail to understand. Let's just talk politics.
This message is pointed squarely at the more than 100,000 HME providers that bill Medicare for less than $1 million annually. Yes, that's you! The business owner who works really hard every day--long hours, some weekends, occasional holidays; you that works in your business rather than on your business. You are the person that must get up, get out and get active.
If we as an industry expect to survive, we must create a voice that is loud and clear, one that includes the majority of the providers, not just the big ones or the ones that are already active. To create that voice, you must stand up and be counted. That means becoming a local lobbyist for your business and the industry, and getting to know your congressman. It means making political contributions to your congressman (or the person you want to replace him or her). Standing up means working with your competition and fellow providers to become a force that can affect change to save our businesses.
You have a choice: Get into politics or get out of HME.
Wayne Stanfield is president and CEO of the National Association of Independent Medical Equipment Suppliers.