HME industry shares spotlight at summits

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Healthcare reform won’t succeed unless the government takes advantage of home care, members of the industry told officials at well-attended regional summits in March and April.

“We feel strongly that the equipment and services we provide are the answers to skyrocketing costs,” Gary Sheehan, president and CEO of Cape Medical Supply in Sandwich, Mass., told a crowd of about 400 people at a summit in Burlington, Vt., on March 17.

The regional summits followed a White House healthcare summit held by President Barack Obama on March 6. In all, five summits were held in Vermont; Dearborn, Mich.; Des Moines, Iowa; Greensboro, N.C.; and Los Angeles.

Sheehan gave his two cents after Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who hosted the summit with Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas, brought up the need for cost containment.

“We were thrilled that we had the opportunity to speak,” Sheehan said. “Now we have to leverage our attendance at such a high-profile summit by keeping up the pressure.”

Karyn Estrella, who accompanied Sheehan, was also able to hand deliver a two-page statement to Nancy-Ann DeParle, who heads up the new White House Office of Health Reform.

“Nancy-Ann made a statement at the end of the summit that home- and community-based care should play an important role in healthcare reform, which was encouraging,” said Estrella, executive director of the New England Medical Equipment Dealers (NEMED). “So I think we achieved our goal, which was to be heard.”

Provider Bob Simmons, who also attended the summit, agreed that it went well, but he worries that when officials talk about home care, they’re not necessarily talking about HME.

“The assumption is always visiting nurses,” said Simmons, owner and vice president of Boston Home Infusion in Dedham, Mass. “My mission now is to elevate all aspects of home care.”