It's time to pick up the industry stakeholder flag
How often have you picked up an article in an HME industry related publication and read the term “industry stakeholder.” “Industry stakeholders respond to the CMS plan for…” “Industry stakeholders are bristling at the idea of using competitive bidding pricing for…” “Industry stakeholders have been intensifying the lobbying for…” And so on. It is embarrassing to admit, but it wasn’t too long ago that my reaction was always, “Thank goodness we have them… the Cara Bachenheimers, the Kim Brummetts, the Jay Witters, the Seth Johnsons, the John Gallaghers et al…thank goodness for our industry stakeholders.” And then the epiphany! “Wait a minute, I am an industry stakeholder” with everything to gain and, more importantly, everything thing to lose. Why am I not actively participating in the process? Why did I retreat to the sidelines?
If you are an HME provider, a distributor, a manufacturer, a buying group or a consultant and you are reading this article, you are not only a tenacious survivor; you are the face of a newly evolving HME industry. And believe it or not my friend, you, too, are an industry stakeholder. If you are not an involved stakeholder, it’s time to make a change. Shelly Prial, the great leader emeritus of our industry and Medtrade ambassador, has been saying it for years: “Get off your soft chairs” and, “Take a giant leap forward by being a joiner.” We have to get engaged. We have to get involved. And we have to do it now.
The current industry leadership, led by AAHomecare, is focused like never before on a coordinated, no-nonsense plan to bring sanity back to the HME marketplace. The plan contains both regulatory and legislative initiatives aimed at correcting the most onerous issues we have before us. They need our membership, our voice and our interaction with legislative and regulatory policymakers across the country. I was pleasantly surprised during Hill visits in May how many congressional staffers mentioned what a good job we had been doing getting our issues heard. Our message is finally resonating! I cannot begin to tell you how refreshing it is to now have a coordinated message—one crafted by suppliers who have had experience on the front lines. The merger of AAHomecare and NAIMES, the collaboration with ancillary industry leaders, the re-emphasis on the importance of a strong group of state associations and the opening of a new era in constructive dialogue with CMS have signaled a welcome maturation in the industry. We all need to get behind it. We need to keep building our presence.
Joining the national association, AAHomecare, and your local state association are obvious first steps in committing to ensuring a positive future for our industry. Additionally, supporting the manufacturers, buying groups, distributors and consultants that are backing industry improvement efforts is vitally important. Know who they are, thank them and give them your business. The list of those that has stepped up to help us in a big way is impressive. Make yourself familiar with it and refer to it when you are making a purchasing decision.
Understanding and promoting the various and very active Internet and social media sites that are voicing concerns to and from the public is an additional way to have a positive impact on behalf of the industry. Savemymedicalsupplies.org, People for Quality Care, The MED Group’s Capitol Connection, Speak4DME.com and the various consumer hotlines are all among the organizations we should be familiar with and be supporting.
There has been no more important time than now, in recent history, to become an invested industry stakeholder. The Round 2 re-compete and national expansion of bid prices is on the way for many of us. There is still time to mitigate some of the biggest problems left over from Round 1. Everyone needs to be involved. If you haven’t been to Medtrade in awhile, it’s time to change that. There is no other place where you can meet all the industry leadership under one roof and quickly get up to speed on what needs to happen to move us forward.
My congratulations for being a survivor. However, don’t relax. It’s time to pick up the flag of “industry stakeholder” and carry it proudly.
Steve Ackerman is the CEO of Spectrum Medical, Inc. He has also served in various capacities for state and national trade associations. He is currently the incoming treasurer of the board of directors at AAHomecare. Reach him at email@example.com.