Industry booster resurfaces

Saturday, June 30, 2007

A pril Mason, a victim of the Democratic tidal wave that washed over the country during the November elections, has returned to the industry she "knows and loves." Mason has joined the Newtown, Pa.-based Paragon Ventures as an M&A adviser, the firm announced in mid-May. Mason has been one of the industry's most visible boosters over the years. From 2004 to 2006, as a Republican member of New Hampshire's House of Representatives, Mason served on the Health, Human Services & Elderly Affairs Committee. Before that, she spent much of her adult life helping to grow the Raymond, N.H.-based LifePlus, which Apria acquired in 2004. In her latest move, Mason plans to walk providers through the buying and selling process, including its often-neglected emotional challenges. Here's what Mason had to say.
HME News: I imagine you focused on industry issues when you were a representative. Any legacies?
April Mason: I authored a bill--unfortunately, because I didn't win reelection, I had to have someone else sponsor it for me--that has to do with rate setting for Medicaid. The legislation would require the state, on a two-year basis, to have a public hearing and review current Medicare rates to other benchmarks, such as managed care payers and Medicaid. The bill, H.B. 43, has passed the House and the Senate, and now it's back in the House. It looks promising.
HME: Has your experience clued you in to where the industry could improve its lobbying efforts?
Mason: I've learned that legislation, from its infancy to the time that it's passed, goes through many variations. To ensure a piece of legislation stays pure, you have to be really diligent--look at the oxygen cap. I think providers know that, but in their busy schedules and their own issues, it's difficult to stay focused on such a slow process.
HME: Anything else?
Mason: Government's just as everyone thinks it is: It's who you know and who has influence.
HME: Why return to the industry as an M&A advisor?
Mason: My interest was piqued at LifePlus. We had purchased six companies in the time that we were in business, so I had been on the buying side. Then I was on the selling side, which was certainly a very difficult but exciting process. Afterward, I realized that I enjoyed both elements. I enjoyed assessing companies, in terms of their value, whether for purchase or sale. I felt it would be something I could do on a regular basis. Also, with 20-plus years of running an HME company, I felt I could help navigate companies through some of the emotional challenges. I wasn't ready for them.
HME: Is it strange timing--that you're getting into the M&A market when it has cooled down so much?
Mason: I think what goes down must come up. All businesses and industries have cycles. Certainly, with competitive bidding and other reimbursement challenges, the M&A market's not as hot as it was in 2004 when I sold my company. But I believe that will change. Actually, I think it's a perfect time to get in. I can strengthen the relationships I have and help the companies that feel, maybe it's not the right time now, but it's in the future. I can help them position themselves for that future.