Organizers plan new HME association for independents

Sunday, April 22, 2007

HALIFAX, Va. - It looks like AAHomecare will no longer be the only national association for home medical equipment providers. Sometime next month, organizers plan to kick off the National Association of Independent Medical Equipment Suppliers.

"Our basic goal is grassroots advocacy and provider support," said Wayne Stanfield, president of the new association. "We want 10,000 members. We believe that without membership and grassroots power, we will not change things."

Stanfield is currently executive director of the Home Care Alliance of Virginia and an HME provider.

Industry attorney Neil Caesar will serve as the association's counsel.

"We're looking for hundreds of members in short order, which we have to go and get because preliminary expressions of interest may or may not turn into people writing checks," Caesar said.

Initially, the new association wants to have a provider member in all 435 congressional districts. These providers will establish relationships with reps and educate them on HME issues. Only by building strong local relationships can the industry hope to change how national lawmakers treat the industry when it comes to crafting federal policy, Stanfield said.

AAHomecare's membership currently stands at about 600 companies, and the association has struggled to attract new members over the past few years. In part, that stems from the perception--a perception that AAHomecare leadership denies--that the association caters more to the needs of larger regional and national providers than to mom-and-pop independents. Additionally, many providers still feel AAHomecare's lowest membership rate, at just about $1,000 a year, is too high, Stanfield said.

The National Association of Independent Medical Equipment Suppliers will charge members "several hundred dollars" a year, he said.

The new association will be for independent providers only. Nationals will not be accepted, nor will manufacturers and distributors, he said.

"We want to let it be known that there is a movement to bring the silent majority of providers into an organization that can use that power in the home districts," Stanfield said. "We don't plan to have meetings, seminars or retreats. We plan to spend our time and efforts involved with state associations and providers in their districts."