Industry reaches out to AARP

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

PORTLAND, Maine - With Maine's two delegates to the U.S. House of Representatives already signed on to co-sponsor the Hobson-Tanner bill, Jim Greatorex has been searching for the next opportunity to lobby against national competitive bidding.
Greatorex, president of both Black Bear Medical in Portland, Maine, and the New England Medical Equipment Dealers Association (NEMED), found that opportunity recently in a local church vestry filled with senior citizens.
"I've actually attended an AARP meeting," Greatorex said. "NEMED is encouraging its members to reach out to more than just congressmen. It's important to get (senior citizens) on our side. We need their help; we're not loud enough."
Greatorex planned to attend another local AARP meeting in May to give a presentation on HME-related issues that affect senior citizens.
John Gallagher, vice president of government relations for The VGM Group, has challenged Greatorex and others to attend local AARP meetings and give presentations.
Already this year, Gallagher has given a handful of presentations to different groups of senior citizens.
"It's usually coffee and doughnuts, and they talk about gardening," Gallagher said. "They're dying to hear about issues that matter to them."
But senior citizens are more than just attentive listeners. Many of them are retired businessmen and women who want to remain active in their communities, Gallagher said.
"I've had people come up to me and say they have close connections to their congressmen, and they're going to go to them and say, 'These are issues that hit home,'" he said.
The bigger picture, Greatorex said, involves developing long-term relationships with senior citizens.
"We're going to need these people beyond the Hobson-Tanner bill," he said. "It's about educating them and learning how to contact them effectively, so we can continually educate them."