Tennessee provider throws hat into ring

Monday, December 31, 2007

FRANKLIN, Tenn. — For provider Monty Lankford there are two colors: black and white.
“I believe we’ve lost our moral direction as a country when it comes to the aging population,” said Lankford, owner of TLC Medical Oxygen and Hospital Equipment. “I feel like we are neglecting our responsibility to these people—the greatest generation. We treat them as second class. We keep cutting their benefits and doing things that adversely affect them. Someone’s got to start taking a stand for them.”
The lifelong Republican threw his hat into the political ring in December, announcing his intention to run for Tennessee’s 4th Congressional district.
“I feel the way for HME to change is if providers can get behind candidates like myself and Dan Meuser (See HME News, October 2007),” said Lankford, who planned to spend December trying to raise a quarter of a million dollars for his campaign.
While providers are often reluctant to spend money on intangibles like political campaigns, Lankford says, the time has come for HMEs to realize they can’t afford not to get involved.
“We will sit there and take a (reimbursement) cut, and we’ll let competitive bidding come along,” said Lankford. “But we don’t want to fund a political campaign for $2,000 or $3,000? We have not been smart.”
An October visit to Capitol Hill reinforced his belief that providers need to do better at making themselves heard in Washington.
“(Lawmakers) tell me constantly ‘We don’t know who you guys are,’” said Lankford. “We don’t make a ripple up there.”
Lankford acknowledges that providers often feel torn between pro-business Republicans and pro-health Democrats, but with 20 years in the health industry and a patient base of 20,000, he sees both sides of the aisle.
“Republicans are for lower taxes and they don’t believe in punishing the small business,” he said. “And Democrats are pro-health, but there is nothing that comes free.”