MAMES makes lobbying top priority

Thursday, September 16, 2010

STILLWATER, Minn. - The Midwest Association for Medical Equipment Services (MAMES) has set aside a war chest of $35,000 to help its provider members hire lobbyists in their individual states.

"It used to be so quiet at the state level, but we're at the point now where there are so many problems," said Rose Schafhauser, executive director. "Every state is so broke and they're attacking us from every angle, but providers aren't able to keep up, because they're buried trying to run their businesses."

To access the money, provider members must first raise their own money. MAMES, which serves seven states, will match what they raise, based on their state's percentage of membership revenue.

Even before MAMES set aside the $35,000, things were bad enough in two states that provider members raised money to hire lobbyists: Minnesota (about $32,000) and Nebraska (about $17,400).

"This is what kept me up at night: We need a lobbyist, but how are we going to pay for it?" said Jerry Culver, general manager of Central Nebraska Home Care in Kearney and Grand Island, Neb.

The lobbyist hired in Nebraska helped provider members successfully beat back a proposal that would have required them to hire a licensed pharmacist to dispense certain medical devices.

"We know that this can work," Schafhauser said.

An added benefit to the $35,000 war chest: Increased participation. In each state, the more providers that join MAMES and the more money members raise, the bigger their piece of the pie.

"It's providing an incentive to states to increase their membership level," Schafhauser said. "So it's getting everyone engaged. It's kind of fun."