Give AAHomecare a shot

Sunday, December 31, 2006

How is this for an understatement: For the HME industry, 2006 was not a lot of fun. From CMS implementing a 13-month cap on DME payments, a 36-month cap on oxygen reimbursement and a total revamping of the power mobility benefit, providers scrambled to deal with unprecedented change. In the words of AAHomecare CEO Tyler Wilson, as we enter 2007, "let's hope the darkest clouds are behind us."
That would be nice, and who knows, maybe the darkest days are behind us. No one, however, should take that for granted. AAHomecare isn't. In November, Wilson, who joined the association in September, hired an experienced government relations vice president, and now the CEO's crunching the numbers to see if he can add another government relations staffer (See story on page 4). For whatever lies ahead on the Medicare front, Wilson aims to be well prepared. He's also intent on bolstering the association's educational and training programs. Its line-up of teleconferences--on topics that include accreditation, retail and case managers, to name a few--looks very good.
As he says: "We have to give our members the tools to adapt to the changing reimbursement climate."
For years, AAHomecare members have bemoaned the fact that so few HME providers--550 at last count--belong to the association. Increase that number, they say, and the association increases its clout on Capitol Hill. I want to see if that is really the case. You should, too. As we kick off the new year, my challenge to all providers who want to see a more favorable Medicare climate is this: Join AAHomecare. Let's see what the industry can do when it works together.
A strong association reflects a strong industry. And a strong industry is more likely to stave off or at least limit detrimental reimbursement and regulatory changes.
I don't know what AAHomecare's rate structure looks like, but the lowest fee is $995 a year. That's a pittance. So if you are a small company, money should not be a barrier to joining.
From where I sit, Wilson's making moves, and they look like good ones. With all the threats the industry faces--from competitive bidding to potential deeper cuts to home oxygen reimbursement--Wilson "can't imagine how any HME company can afford not to be engaged in their national association."
I can't either.
Time will tell, but in my nine years at HME News, Tyler Wilson appears to be the strongest CEO AAHomecare has ever had. He's got a good understanding of where the association is and where it needs to go. But for him to do his best work, more providers need to join the association.