Shelly Prial is a well-known authority on the HME/DME industry and president of Prial Consulting. He and his wife Thelma can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have been around a long time, and I’ve never seen so much confusion in the HME/DME industry. I became active in health care in 1950, several years after completing my tour of duty. I attended Long Island University and earned my degree in pharmacy. More than 90 percent of my class was made up of World War II veterans and each of us understood the meaning of teamwork. Cooperation, pulling together, alignment and association bound us together, and that’s how we won the war. It has now been 67 years since WWII ended, and the time for teamwork has come once again.
We seem to depend too much on third party sales such as Medicare and Medicaid, which shouldn’t control your business. This happens when dealers bend to payer’s demands rather than standing against them. Competitive bidding legislation is a good example. We do not want it, and we are fighting to thwart it.
I find it frustrating that far too many home medical equipment (HME) and durable medical equipment (DME) dealers are not members of industry associations. Do they think they can remain independent and continue to exist during these trying times? I am not going to list all of the legislation and restrictions staring us in the face, because you know them well, but standing alone will no longer work. There are too many attacks on our business coming from all angles. To make your voices heard—and influence Congress in order to save your company—we need to develop a sense of teamwork.
Fortunately, there are ways to protect what we already have. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “No great man ever complains of want of opportunity.” To become effective, the industry must consolidate the material provided by the associations. However, insufficient numbers of HME/DME providers are team players.
We can change this mentality by taking two simple steps. The first is easy, because our profession has high-caliber associations in place. The amount of hard work, knowledge and experience they make available to HME/DME providers must be acknowledged.
I receive e-newsletters from many state associations. The information they disseminate to their members about pending and existing legislation, both national and local, is excellent. There are no other sources that can get information out any more quickly or thoroughly. But I know how many providers are in each state, and when I see how small a percentage belongs to these associations, I am dismayed.
On the national front, the American Association for Homecare (AAHomecare) has been the spokesperson and the main lobby for the industry. The National Association of Independent Medical Services (NAIMES) is also very active and working for results. I congratulate VGM and the MED Group for their major efforts to support the associations.
I believe that 100 percent of all HME/DME providers should become dues-paying members of their state and national associations. Although our industry may not have the large funds of the big conglomerates, we have a better weapon: Each and every member knows and can influence their clientele to support elected officials or candidates who understand our problems.
They listen to the vox populi because we vote, and they are off the “gravy train” when they are not elected. Votes are the most effective tool we have, and the associations will provide you with the necessary material to bring to your clientele. This is why all HME/DME providers must belong to their associations.
As a team we must find a venue where we can organize and coordinate efforts and I believe we have one in Medtrade. This October 15-18 we can bring together all of the participants to discuss our hopes and wishes—and then make them happen. Oscar Hammerstein said it all in the Broadway show Carousel: “Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart; and you’ll never walk alone; you’ll never walk alone.”
I envision our industry coming together at Medtrade with the state and national associations, key manufacturers, pharmacy, telehealth, PTs, OTs, AAHomecare, VNA, etc., and discussing our needs. We can use this venue as a round-table session to bring many ideas together. We have to become as effective as the major drug manufacturers, the hospitals and all the other lobbyists. When the politicians realize that we are speaking not only for our industry but also for all of our patients, family caregivers and community, they will listen.