The auto industry feels your pain


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It’s interesting watch the auto industry grapple with the government’s Cash for Clunkers program. Finally, another sector of the economy, one that until now had nothing to do with the federal bureaucracy, is feeling the HME industry’s pain.

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Brian Meloy, the operations manager for Central Medical Equipment in Harrisburg, Pa., brought this to my attention recently. Here’s what Brian wrote:

As I was having my coffee and watching Fox News this morning, they were talking about the new Cash for Clunkers program introduced by our government. Well, after listening to most of it, I started to see a similarity in this program with the HME industry. People bring their cars in to trade on a new car with up to a $4,500 discount. Here are the similarities: The dealer sells them the car, promises them the rebate, lets them drive away with a new car and much like a DME dealer filing a claim with Medicare, they submit for payment and never know if or when they will get paid. They put their product out there at their expense and keep their fingers crossed for payment before they sell too many and have to go out of business. The even greater similarity is this: The government will deny the rebate if they determine the process was not completed to the government’s satisfaction. You can’t get any more similar than that if you think about it. We get denied everyday because Medicare says we did it wrong. Thank to Fox News for allowing me to point out this similarity.

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I agree. The similarities between HME and the Cash for Clunkers program are uncanny.  The big difference is that once payments slowed down and the program threatened to run out of cash, the car industry voiced loud concern and the government allocated more money for clunkers.

There’s a lesson in this for HME, one that should have been learned long ago. Like auto dealers, HME dealers work closely with consumers. So why does the government recognize this relationship between care dealers and consumers but not the similar relationship between HME dealers and consumers/patients?

The answer is simple. The HME industry has spent way too much time fighting reimbursement cuts and way too little time focusing on the consumer. When government officials and bureaucrats look at the HME industry, they don’t see consumers. They see an industry fighting to preserve its Medicare revenue stream.

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Until that changes, you should expect more of the same.

— Mike Moran