Users First Alliance gets nonprofit status, prepares for prime time
I just finished up writing a Q&A with Users First Alliance's Ann Eubank for the January issue of HME News. Here's a sneak peak:
A who’s who of complex rehab stakeholders showed up for a presentation by Ann Eubank at Medtrade in November. The subject of the presentation: Raising about $200,000 for Users First Alliance (UFA), a newly minted 501c3 nonprofit that has worked, since 2007, to ensure appropriate access to seating and mobility equipment by empowering consumers, clinicians and providers. “There were more than 70 people in attendance, which, for 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday of Medtrade, was impressive,” said Eubank, executive director of UFA. “Every major organization, manufacturer and high-end supplier that you can think of was represented.” Here’s what Eubank told HME News about UFA’s evolution into a force to be reckoned with.
HME News: Why was becoming a 501c3 nonprofit so important?
Ann Eubank: It’s a tax-exempt status from the IRS and, to get it, you have to be consumer orientated and you can’t have a board that’s weighted corporately. It’s a very, very, very pure, regulated nonprofit. Everything has to be transparent, so it means a lot. To have that—it might be the first time in our industry where we truly do something collaborative.
HME: What was your sales pitch for raising money for UFA?
Eubank: It was more of a strategic planning meeting. It was a, “Come and hear what I have to say and ask me tough questions” meeting. I’ve spent the past two years talking to all of the large entities in the industry to make sure people are thinking in the right and same direction. Because if one large entity is frightened of empowering consumers, the movement—and it truly is a movement—won’t happen.
HME: What’s part of your strategic plan?
Eubank: One part of the strategic plan is forming committees—committees on policy, research and education.
HME: What kind of projects do you see UFA working on?
Eubank: Whenever a third-party payer does something discriminatory toward people with disabilities, Users First will step in. When suppliers, even if they’re a large supplier that’s wealthy, go after these things, they can damage their relationships with payers. So we’re going to look at it; we’re going to look at the ADA; we’re going to look at the various laws in Medicare and Medicaid. Users First will become an advocacy group in that way, which protects the provider and the manufacturer.
HME: How will UFA pick projects?
Eubank: I don’t make that decision. We have a board, and six out of seven members use wheelchairs and are community based. This is also where the policy committee comes in. These are people, they’re competitors, but we’ll hopefully be moving forward in a collaborative effort on which states we should we go to first and why. Then they’ll help with the different politics in the different states so we do it in a smart way.
HME: How will you spend the $200,000?
Eubank: I always want Users First to be lean and mean and transparent and effective. The budget goes toward marketing, project fees, the database, the website, that kind of thing. I don’t have aspirations for it to be a big organization with secretaries and computers all over the place. I want it to be run mostly by the people who are involved.
HME: Is increasing membership in UFA also part of the strategic plan?
Eubank: I already have thousands of members and that’s just with me going out and about every time I speak. With broadened support, there isn’t anyone who will say no to it. The membership target is any American that cares about this issue, so people that use wheelchairs, their family members, their entire network. If you’re working with a poor group in Africa, the people who are in that movement aren’t only African. It’s anyone that cares about that issue. We have a lot of people who are touched by this industry, who are involved in this industry.