It's time to involve consumer advocates in the struggle over competitive bidding

I’ve been a part of advocacy campaigns on behalf of the home medical equipment community since first becoming involved in with New York Medical Equipment Providers Association early in my career, and have furthered my education in the workings of Congress and CMS though leadership positions at AAHomecare. Through it all, I am continually impressed and inspired by the tremendous effort HME providers and manufacturers have put into fighting for the future of our industry.

Many providers and manufacturers are active in user-group organizations. Others try to broaden awareness of our issues through local business and fraternal organizations, and some even take the case to local media to discuss the ruinous effects of the competitive bidding program on HME providers and the people we serve.

As critical as these activities are in protecting our interests in the legislative and regulatory arena, we can’t go it alone. We must make sure other stakeholders in the HME sector, such as consumer groups, patients and their families, caregivers and clinicians are informed and motivated to raise their voices in support of fair HME policy.

That’s why working with consumer groups to build support for legislative initiatives is one of AAHomecare’s key roles as the national nonprofit association representing the HME industry. The association has recently been working with a number of consumer advocacy groups to build consumer support for the binding bid legislation, H.R. 4920. This legislation will make all bids binding and require proof of licensure for the next rounds of bidding. It addresses a major flaw in the program and deters speculative bidding without generating a cost.

Just as they did for H.R. 1717, consumer groups strongly support H.R. 4920. AAHomecare would like to thank United Spinal for spearheading a consumer group sign-on letter that garnered 25 supporting consumer organizations to endorse H.R. 4920, including the National Council on Independent Living, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and the American Council of the Blind. This letter and the support for H.R. 4920 indicate agreement among consumers that major changes are needed within the competitive bidding program.

The HME sector can no longer afford to be the only voice in this debate. Medicare reform mistakes are impacting recipients’ health and preventing them from getting the right home health equipment. Some groups, like United Spinal and the National Council on Independent living have already picked up the bull horn and started energizing their membership. We thank them for that leadership.

To help educate and mobilize, AAHomecare is leading a broad-based online campaign to communicate directly with HME consumers. The Save My Medical Supplies campaign is targeted to build public awareness of the millions of people who are receiving care and products from companies like yours.

Launched in April, the innovative and enormously successful pilot campaign produced, in just 90 days, 5,500 letters asking Congress to reform poor Medicare policies, many of which are impacting people with serious medical needs. The campaign centers on the website, savemymedicalsupplies.org, and related social media forums working together to both educate and empower people to speak out as advocates on their behalf or for someone they love. Site visitors can email their congressional representatives directly, allowing patients and caregivers to share stories about problems accessing HME. This also provides valuable material for our communications team to use in articles and messaging aimed at media, Capitol Hill and regulatory agency audiences.

I ask all HME providers and manufacturers to make sure they are helping to educate their patients about the public policy challenges facing our profession and affecting their access to essential products and services.

Please share the site with your patients and any other HME patient groups or business organizations that you work with. Check out their related Facebook and Twitter feeds and link to them in your social media outlets as well.

Our communities rely on the HME providers for life-enhancing products and services. Let’s make sure we give them every opportunity to support our industry in return!