HME shares spotlight at healthcare summits

Sunday, March 22, 2009

YARMOUTH, Maine - 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 Vermont and Michigan this month.

"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 the University of Vermont on March 17.

The regional summits followed a White House healthcare summit held by President Barack Obama on March 6. Three other summits are scheduled: March 23 in Des Moines, Iowa; March 31 in Greensboro, N.C.; and April 6 in 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 definitely 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 or home infusion.

"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."

At the Michigan summit on March 12, Harvey Zuckerberg, executive director of the Michigan Home Health Association, submitted a two-page statement to Jennifer Granholm, governor of Michigan; Jim Doyle, governor of Wisconsin; and Melody Barnes, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council.

"We can make health care available for all if we can keep people out of hospitals (through) a home-care based, physician-overseen form of chronic disease management," he said.