VGM ad gives grassroots efforts a higher profile

Friday, June 30, 2006

WATERLOO, Iowa - The VGM Group took out a full-page ad in a major Washington, D.C., journal last month, pushing the industry's message that current and future cuts to DME reimbursement could hold dire consequences for frail seniors.
Additionally, the ad informs lawmakers that during their August break they should expect visits from HME providers and beneficiaries. The ad ran in Roll Call, a newspaper that covers the federal government and is read by an estimated 90% of lawmakers and their staff. The ad and visits are spearheaded by Last Chance for Patient Choice (LCPC), a non-profit advocacy group that VGM created last fall.
"With this ad, we're trying to frame in the congressman's eye, that when they tinker with HME reimbursement they are also directly affecting elderly people who have tremendous challenges in their lives and are trying to stay in their homes," said Mike Mallaro, LCPC president.
The ad reads as an open letter from Mallaro to members of Congress and spells out how recent HME reimbursement cuts affect patient care.
Following the June 19 Roll Call ad, LCPC will help state and regional HME associations coordinate provider meetings with federal representatives in their area. HME Marathon Week is scheduled for July 28 to Aug. 7.
"We're going to have a lot of fights--competitive bidding isn't the last fight," said John Gallagher, VGM's vice president of government relations and vice president of LCPC. "So we want to develop ongoing relationships with members of Congress, something we've never done. This is something like what hospital associations and physicians do. They are always there with their congressman."
What's more, Marathon Week is just a start. If this first effort generates 100 to 200 meetings with lawmakers, that will be great, said Gallagher. Ultimately, however, the goal is to have a provider in every congressional district who can, when asked, spearhead talks with representatives on industry issues, he said.
"It sounds like a great idea," said Karyn Estrella, executive director of the New England Medical Equipment Dealers association. "The ad is like a shot over the bow that we are coming. Now the state associations need to make sure they follow up with action."