Q and A: NCAMES's Beth Bowen

Monday, May 24, 2010

RALEIGH, N.C. - There are few state associations that have been more successful placing stories about "suicide bidding" with local newspapers and TV and radio stations than the North Carolina Association of Medical Equipment Services (NCAMES). The association features those stories prominently on its Web site, along with homegrown press releases and podcasts. Here's what Executive Director Beth Bowen had to say about the importance of courting the media.

HME News: What's the secret to NCAMES's success?

Beth Bowen: Actually, a lot of the credit goes to us hiring a PR firm, Menzies Consulting, which is in the Raleigh area. They have a lot of local connections and some national connections. We'll tell David Menzies, "This is what we're trying to do" and he helps us do it.

HME: What is it about "suicide bidding" that interests the media?

Bowen: It's the program itself. It affects real people and companies. It's kind of an easy sell in that way.

HME: How do you keep the issue of "suicide bidding" fresh and current in the media's eyes?

Bowen: Our pitch is always centered around some event. It started with just releasing information about H.R. 3790. Then, for example, we pushed a story when Sen. Kay Hagan was coming to the area. A couple of my members went there and when she was talking about jobs, jobs, jobs, they said, "Well, guess what, in the state of North Carolina, about 1,500 jobs are going to be eliminated because of this program." It's taking different angles. Sometimes it's about pushing the jobs angle; sometimes it's about pushing the senior access angle.

HME: "Suicide bidding" is a newer term that the industry has coined for competitive bidding. Does it resonate more with the media?

Bowen: The industry has tried over the years to change the term competitive bidding, because it has a positive connotation, even though there's nothing positive about the program at all. I think "suicide bidding" does make them stand up and pay attention.

HME: Tell me about the podcasts that NCAMES has on its Web site.

Bowen: We wanted to get members on air somehow. After one of our members, Frank Trammell, did an interview for a radio program in Charlotte, David Menzies interviewed him by phone and just pulled out bits and pieces of that interview and put them together in a podcast. He also interviewed me to explain H.R. 3790. It was easy.

HME: Why is it so important to have such a dynamic Web site as a resource for the media and your members?

Bowen: I can't give our members enough tools to try and fight against this program. It's going to destroy their businesses and their patients' access.