Tim Pontius: HME’s unifying force

Sunday, October 31, 2004

The HME industry hasn’t had it this tough since 1997 when the Balanced Budget Act cut oxygen reimbursement by 30%. Today, the industry’s strongest bulwark against a perfect storm of changes (FEHPB cuts, ASP cuts for respiratory meds, competitive bidding) is AAHomecare. Standing at the helm through these first two gusts is Tim Pontius, chairman of AAHomecare and president of Young Medical Equipment in Toledo, Ohio.

Pontius’s influence is more sublime than Larry Higby’s at Apria or Paul Gabos’ at Lincare. He’s not writing the kind of checks and firing up the kind of lobbying activities they can. Nor does he wield the power of an autocrat. The executive committee at AAHomecare, its board, the councils and staff work are each influential in their own right. But, as with any organization, someone has to pull all that together and clarify the association’s priorities. That’s Pontius.

Pontius commands respect. As chairman, he’s no mere figurehead, to be acknowledged while others with deeper pockets make decisions about the allocation of resources. Pontius is himself a resource. His battles with the industry’s toughest medical director, Dr. Adrian Oleck, are legendary. He is the only clinician to hold the title of chair at AAHomecare. And his business has won envy among his peers.

He’ll need to play to all his strengths in the coming year as the industry’s various constituents react - not always the same way - to strategies that would soften the blows. The trade group’s charter is anxious to maintain a unified voice. Although the spin would have you believe AAHomecare didn’t mind splintering for NCART this year, it’s a better bet that AAHomecare isn’t interested in calving any other factions.