Providers mix business with politics

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The home medical equipment industry may have won a delay in national competitive bidding, but providers like Larry Rice say it’s important to remain on task.

“We’re redoubling our efforts,” said Rice, president of Dallas-based In Home Products. “This is a temporary reprieve and if we don’t keep lobbying, we’re going to have this whole issue all over again.”

Rice should know. Several of Texas’s congressmen voted in favor of upholding President Bush’s July 15 veto. When asked if that happens frequently because the president is from Texas, Rice was quick to set the record straight.

“Bush is not from Texas,” he said. “They moved here for the oil fields. So, let’s not confuse the Bushes with Texans.”

What would Coogan do?

Provider Tom Coogan has been doing his part to educate his local lawmakers on HME industry issues like the impact of reimbursement cuts. The office of Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., located a couple of blocks from Care Medical Equipment’s headquarters here, is a frequent stop for Coogan.

“We like to lean on him,” said Coogan, director of industry affairs and managed care agreements for Care Medical.

During a recent visit to Wyden’s office, Coogan was talking to the Senator’s aide about the 9.5% reimbursement cut included in the Medicare bill to delay national competitive bidding. The aide asked him, “Well, if you were Ron, what would you do?,” recalled Coogan.

“I said I would infuse more money into HME services so patients could be discharged much faster,” he said. “Cost shifting money from one area to another would minimize expensive hospital stays.

That’s pretty much our message: That we are an integral part of the healthcare system.”

Politics on the side

Provider Glenn Steinke lobbied hard to get the bill to delay competitive bidding passed but said it was like holding down a second job.

“I spent hundreds of hours writing letters and making phone calls and was able to get my lawmaker to back it,” said the owner of Airway Medical. “I felt good about the results.”

Unfortunately, Steinke said between politicking and “putting out fires,” some things fell by the wayside.

“All of the other things I should have been doing in the meantime are still sitting on my desk,” he said. “Here we are doing all this extra work and the patient care end of it suffers.”