by Tom Ryan

More than 150 HME leaders gathered at the AAHomecare Washington Legislative Conference, May 20-21, to stand together and educate Congress about the issues impacting HME.

Consumer Groups Bring Their Perspectives

New this year at the conference was a panel discussion featuring leaders from consumer groups with whom AAHomecare frequently collaborates. The panel featured: Alexandra Bennewith (United Spinal Association), Aimee Bulthuis (COPD Foundation), Kelly Buckland (The National Council on Independent Living), Madonna Long (Pride Mobility Products), Patrick Wildman (The ALS Association). Anna McDevitt, Laboratory Tactical Consulting and Save My Medical Supplies, served as moderator.

Conference attendees also got exclusive access to big names that are directly impacting home care policy, including senators and congressmen.

In Their Words

Providers such as Jim Spellman of Homecare Medical in New Berlin, Wisconsin, started paying attention to politics shortly after passage of the Medicare Modernization Act (MMA) of 2003, and back then he made it a point to attend the first of many Legislative Conferences. Upon returning from the 2015 Conference, Spellman is convinced that the time spent building relationships can only help providers in the future.

"When I get back from Washington, people ask, 'How was the trip?' and I don't have tangible results to show," he says. "It typically happens weeks and months later when legislation is introduced, and then we get members to support what we are asking them to support."

Delayed gratification is not the easiest sell, but Spellman points out: "AAHomecare does a great job of getting speakers from CMS and members of Congress who encourage us to continue doing what we are doing," he says. "It's refreshing for me to know that what we do makes a difference."

Patrick Naeger of Healthcare Equipment and Supply Company in Perryville, Missouri, agrees that making the case in person when possible is worth the trip.

"Legislators need to hear how CMS affects us and burdens us, and nothing beats a face-to-face encounter," he says. "Without exception, members of Congress and staff appreciate you traveling all the way to D.C. It's a responsibility to your business, your employees, and your patients to engage."

Joey Tart, of Family Medical Supply in Dunn, North Carolina, had a particularly fruitful meeting with staff members who work with Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC), a known friend of the HME industry.

"They understand our industry," says Tart. "Overall, the perception of the industry among legislators has improved. A lot of it has to do with AAHomecare and what the organization is doing with CMS."

Lifetime Achievement Award

The highlight of the conference was a reception in honor of Invacare founder Mal Mixon, as AAHomecare presented him with the Legislative Advocate Lifetime Achievement Award. Speaker and longtime friend John Boehner sent in a surprise video message.

Going forward, the annual Legislative Advocate Award will be named the Mal Mixon Legislative Advocate Award in his honor.

Chairmanship Changes Hands

AAHomecare staff would like to thank Robert Steedley, president of Barnes Healthcare Services, for his incredible leadership and service during his two-year term as our Chairman of the Board.

Steedley's parting words: "This association is powerful. Our numbers may be small, but our mission is huge, and we're poised to be successful." He handed over the reins to John Letizia, formerly vice chairman of AAHomecare's board president and president of Laurel Medical Solutions in Ebensburg, Pennsylvania.

"At AAHomecare, each company and every voice matters, large and small. I'm a small provider standing here today as proof of that."