Michigan providers splinter into two groups

Thursday, October 21, 2010

LANSING, Mich. - A handful of HME providers here have split from the state's provider association to form a new one.

The Michigan Independent Providers Association (MIPA), which formed in September, has launched a website, mipaforchoice.net, and begun a membership drive.

"Some of us said we would be better off having an association made of DME, mainly," said Robert Binson, president of the new association and director of clinical and customer service for Center Line-based Binson's Home Health Care. "There are a lot of issues that independents have that need to be looked at and that's what we plan on doing."

Since the late 1990s, DME providers in the state have been represented by the Michigan Home Health Association (MHHA), which includes home health, hospice, and private duty care, in addition to HME and pharmacy and infusion services.

Harvey Zuckerberg, executive director of the 380-member MHHA, expressed surprise that some DMEs felt they weren't being represented.

"We've got a governing body of 16, and four of those are DME providers," he said. "Our current president is an independent HME. Why those who wanted to splinter off felt they needed to go their own way is confusing and counterproductive."

Binson pointed to the scheduling of MHHA's annual convention during Medtrade West last year as an example of how some providers felt nobody was paying attention to them.

However, it's the recent efforts of some hospital-affiliated HME providers from Michigan to carve themselves out of competitive bidding that was the final straw (See HME News, October).

"Either competitive bidding is good or it's bad," said Binson. "It's not good for some and bad for others."

Zuckerberg, who says his association is evenly split between independent HMEs and hospital-affiliated HMEs, said the providers pushing for the exemption did so on their own initiative.

"We would never take a position that would place one segment of the membership to the disadvantage of another," he said. "When you are divided, you give the decision-makers the chance to turn both sides down."

With so many industry voices clamoring for lawmakers' attention these days on everything from competitive bidding to audits, will adding yet another to the mix weaken the industry's message?

"I do worry that it's going to dilute the message," said Binson. "I don't agree with multiple associations all doing the same thing. We are going to meet with MHHA leadership in the future to talk about coordinating efforts because there is a lot of stuff we can do together, but there are going to be issues where we differ."