Industry asks thousands of consumers to support HME

Sunday, January 27, 2008

WASHINGTON – A powerhouse quartet of industry leaders—The MED Group, The VGM Group, AAHomecare and NAIMES—have joined forces on a grassroots campaign to encourage thousands of Medicare beneficiaries to write postcards to their congressmen, encouraging them not to cut reimbursement for home medical equipment.

The campaign, “Rock the Halls of Congress,” acknowledges that without the help of consumers—a key constituency that lawmakers listen to closely—Congress could very well cut oxygen reimbursement and eliminate the first-month purchase option for power wheelchairs this year. Those cuts have been mentioned as ways to stave off a scheduled 10% cut to physician reimbursement scheduled to take effect July 1.

“We’ve got to do something between now and the end of June to make our voice heard,” said Wayne Stanfield, president and CEO of the National Association of Independent Medical Equipment Suppliers (NAIMES), which organized the consumer campaign. “This is going to be the driving force and the largest combined lobbying effort in the history of the industry.”

The effort pulls together the industry’s two largest member-service organizations (MED and VGM), its main voice in Washington (AAHomecare) and NAIMES, an association that formed last spring to focus on grassroots advocacy.

“With the support of every HME provider, this campaign could be the turning point for us this year,” said Don Clayback, vice president of government relations for The MED Group. “The key is for every provider to get involved.”

The group shoots to have 25,000 patient-written postcards sent to members of Congress at their home district office the week of Feb 11. To accomplish this, they’ll contact their members, requesting that they spread the word, even to local competitors. Additionally, all 30 state DME organizations will request that their members ask at least 10 patients to write postcards for each branch location.

The second phase of the campaign will encourage providers to visit their congressmen in their home districts during the week of Feb. 18 to discuss DME issues like competitive bidding and to stress the cost-effective, patient-referred value of home care.

Phase three: Encourage as many people as possible to carry that message to Washington, D.C., March 4-6 as part of AAHomecare’s Legislative Conference, the association’s annual lobbying event.

“This is like a military campaign,” said NAIMES Chairman Wayne Sale. “First they get the postcard; then we follow up with the ground forces at the district level; and then deliver the message in Washington, where the decisions are made.”