Independent providers seek representation

Sunday, May 31, 2009

MARTINEZ, Ga.--A handful of independent home medical equipment providers have formed a new group to get their specific interests heard on Capitol Hill.

“We want a voice on the Hill that answers to us,” said David Petsch, managing director of the Committee to Save Independent HME Suppliers (CSI: HME) and owner of Petsch Respiratory in Martinez, Ga.

To help it along, the nonprofit CSI: HME has hired the Washington, D.C.-based lobbying firm Capitol Hill Consulting Group and public relations firm Baker Wright Group. The group’s initial messages will concern repealing the 36-month oxygen cap and national competitive bidding.

CSI: HME caters to the independent providers out there that haven’t really been involved in industry initiatives - that is until the oxygen cap came along Jan. 1, Petsch said.

“The cap has their attention,” he said. “Now they’re saying ‘What can we do?’”

Quite a few new industry groups have cropped up in the past year or two, among them the National Association of Independent Medical Equipment Suppliers (NAIMES) and the Accredited Medical Equipment Providers of America (AMEPA). Florida recently became home to three state associations.

Tyler Wilson, president of AAHomecare, said in challenging times, it’s human nature for providers to seek answers, but he worries the industry’s message could get lost.

“With each different group that sprouts up, there is the danger the message will not be coordinated,” he said. “If Congressman Jones is hearing different messages or he’s hearing about a lot of infighting within an industry, that industry gets dismissed.”

Petsch downplayed these concerns, saying “there’s never going to be any one organization that everyone agrees with.”

“We’ve all got a voice - that’s all we are trying to accomplish,” he said.

Petsch pointed out that although CSI: HME seeks provider input and contributions, it differs from AAHomecare and other groups because it isn’t a membership-based organization.

In addition to Petsch, HME: CSI will be led by Shawn Steffey, president of Respiratory Care Associates in Winchester, Va.; Esta Willman, president of Medi-Source Equipment & Supply in Yucca Valley, Calif., and a member of the PAOC; and Todd Tyson, president of HiTech Healthcare in Norcross, GA.

The committee will also have a legislative activity board (LAB) consisting of 15 to 25 participants. The LAB will gain industry input through a secure provider survey tool. Any actions taken by the LAB will be decided through a two-thirds majority vote.