Keep the pressure on lawmakers

Sunday, December 31, 2006

WASHINGTON - A Congressional sea change has industry leaders cautiously optimistic that they can turn the political tide in their favor.
Tyler Wilson, AAHomecare's CEO, expects to see an emphasis on bipartisan approaches to healthcare solutions.
"Clearly you tend to play with the party in power, but it's in our interest to also cultivate our relationships with Republicans," said Wilson. "We have worked continuously to make sure we educate both sides of the aisle."
Smart lobbying means having feet planted in both camps, said Wilson, who feels that current trends lean toward in-house staff. In November, the association hired Walt Gorski as its new vice president of government relationships (See story page 4).
With 15 years of lobbying experience and a stint on the staff of the House's Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health, Gorski looks forward to working with Pete Stark, D-Calif., tapped as the new chair of the Subcommittee on Health.
"I think Mr. Stark knows that bipartisanship is the way to move forward," said Gorski. "Stark brings a strong knowledge of the entire healthcare system and he is very concerned with putting together good policy."
With the 2008 presidential nomination up for grabs, a major budget deficit and the looming specter of aging baby boomers swelling Medicare's ranks, look for entitlement reform to be on the front burner this year. Consequently, the HME industry must keep up pressure on lawmakers, said Tom Ryan, AAHomecare chairman.
"Hopefully we can have a year where we don't see continuous cuts with no end in sight," he said. "The industry needs to be more proactive and work with Congress on alternatives so we're not always a target."