'We need everyone charged up'

Friday, November 30, 2007

WASHINGTON - With 2007 drawing to a close, the HME industry is still well short of its goal to collect 200 co-sponsors for H.R. 1845, a bill that would lessen the blow of national competitive bidding. The industry needs that many co-sponsors, industry sources say, for the bill to ride the coattails of any future legislation.
In early November, the Tanner-Hobson bill had 134 co-sponsors.
"We're plugging away, but, this go around, we're struggling to get members involved and Congressmen signed on," said Karyn Estrella, the executive director of the New England Medical Equipment Dealers (NEMED) association. "Everyone's burnt out."
Last year, NEMED members got 19 of their 22 Congressmen to sign on to a similar bill, H.R. 3559. This year, they have 14, with a 15th on the way, Estrella said.
A companion to the Tanner-Hobson bill, S. 1428, has 13 co-sponsors. Other important industry bills, H.R. 621 and S. 1484, which would both repeal the oxygen cap, have 126 and seven co-sponsors, respectively.
With the end of the year drawing near, the industry has the added challenge of "breaking through the noise level," said John Gallagher, vice president of government relations for The VGM Group.
"It's not that Congressmen don't want to sign on; they just have so much coming at them," he said.
Providers can make a bigger impact on Congressmen by involving consumers in their lobbying efforts, Gallagher said.
NEMED, VGM and others planned to ramp up efforts in November, December and the beginning of 2008. As part of World COPD Day in November, VGM planned to organize a "shut down the switchboards day," Gallagher said.
"We're going to have everyone call their Congressmen, and we're going to have a Jerry Lewis telethon type thing on the Web where they can check where their state is," he said. "We need to get everyone charged up."