New president of women's group ready to dial up volume

Monday, February 22, 2016

Christa Miehe is excited to give women’s health providers a voice in the noisy HME industry.

“As far as what does the women’s healthcare niche think about this issue or what does it need, there’s not really a united voice for that market,” said Miehe, the new president for Essentially Women. “There are a number of issues that are specific to this market, and as we see more regulated health care and a decreasing number of payers there are only going to be more issues.”

The VGM Group announced in December it had acquired the member services organization. VGM will use its considerable strengths to boost lobbying and grassroots efforts for women’s healthcare issues, Miehe said.

“This is a piece that I think has been missing,” she said. “There hasn’t really been an engine to generate that sort of provider and patient level participation.”

One issue topping the list: lymphedema. Stakeholders have for several years sought Medicare coverage for compression garments. The Lymphedema Treatment Act, introduced in the House of Representatives in March 2015 and the Senate in December 2015, has 183 and eight co-sponsors, respectively.

“Other payers cover it and it’s something that needs to be remedied,” said Miehe.

Miehe’s passion for women in business is a particularly good match for the women’s health market, where she estimates 99% of the providers are women, mostly owners of small boutiques.

While the market is just starting to see some consolidation like the larger HME industry, it’s nowhere near as prevalent.

“If anything, I think there’s a chance that these community-based providers will survive in one- and two-shop opportunities,” she said. “It’s such a niche market: They serve such a specific patient base and they really foster deep relationships with the patients they serve.”

One area in which these small shops excel is retail, says Miehe.

“Women’s health providers are light years ahead on cash and carry, non-reimbursable retail products,” she said. “If your patient is a breast cancer survivor and they need a breast form, they also need a wig and a hat and a pink ribbon keychain.”