Stakeholders find new ways to connect with beneficiaries

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

YARMOUTH, Maine - Industry stakeholders have ramped up efforts to get beneficiaries involved in the fight against competitive bidding.

At Medtrade last week, the Accredited Medical Equipment Providers of America (AMEPA) unveiled a new patient advocacy line (PAL) that will make it easier for beneficiaries to contact their lawmakers, said Rob Brant, past president of AMEPA.

Callers to the toll-free number listen to a brief message about the competitive bidding program and are given an opportunity to enter their zip code. Doing so connects them to a menu of their lawmaker's offices so they can urge them to support H.R. 1041, the bill to repeal the program.

"It's important to get patients involved and reaching out," said Brant. "The hardest part (now) is getting HME providers to participate and give flyers to patients."

PAL is based on a similar system used by the American Medical Association. AMEPA tested the program this summer in Florida and Texas, both of which have several Round 1 competitive bidding areas.

With Round 2 starting, it's time to ask providers and patients in other areas to step up to the plate, said Brant.

"I think we've squeezed every drop we can out of those states," he said. "I think everyone is (now really) starting to learn about competitive bidding, and they need to get involved and get patients involved."

Florida and Texas aren't the only two states that have seen increased grassroots activity recently. The VGM Group's People for Quality Care (PFQC) in October partnered with the Ohio Association of Medical Equipment Services on a town hall teleconference that targeted beneficiaries in the Cincinnati CBA. During the hour-long call, beneficiaries learned about competitive bidding, and were invited to "press through" to be connected directly to their congressional office and ask them to support H.R. 1041. A similar call was held in the Kansas City CBA in August. During the most recent call, about 200 listeners asked to be put through to lawmakers, said Beth Cox, director of communication and marketing specialist for PFQC.

The calls have an added benefit in that they allow industry stakeholders to track the most interested beneficiaries, she pointed out.

"They are willing to be politically active and are willing to voice their opinion against competitive bidding," said Cox. "By targeting those who care about the issue, future communications and organization efforts are more efficient."