Las Vegas, Nev. (March 4, 2020)--The home medical equipment (HME) industry is well-positioned for success, and its leading advocacy group has made significant shifts in focus and goals to set up for it, AAHomecare President and CEO Tom Ryan said Wednesday.

Now it’s time for HME providers to step up and support the group’s broader mission, Ryan said at the association’s update session at Medtrade Spring in Las Vegas, Nev.

“The mission has gotten larger than it had been…” Ryan said. “What’s happened is there’s not enough margin” to handle it.

He said he has set a goal for the organization to raise an additional $1 million this year; AAHomecare has an annual budget of around $3.5 million.

“I’m optimistic we’re going to hit this target,” he said. “If we hit that target of $1 million and I’m in Phoenix (at Medtrade West in 2021) telling you we hit that number, we should all be very proud of this industry”

While AAHomecare hasn’t shifted from its focus in Washington, D.C.—which for this year includes pushing to keep noninvasive ventilators out of competitive bidding and finding financial relief for rural and non rural areas—the group has rebranded to make sure members and nonmembers are aware of its work at the state level and in regulatory affairs.

“We did a survey about a year ago and found out that the non-believers really had a perception that we were just one lane in D.C.,” Ryan said. “We had to rebrand ourself and let the nonbelievers understand that we are everywhere, we are in your hometown, and the challenges are tremendous.”

Ryan and members of the AAHomecare team encouraged attendees to get involved by contacting their congresspeople but also building relationships with state legislators.

The work at the federal level has paid off, said Jay Witter, AAHomecare’s vice president of governmental affairs, who compared today to when he started about a decade ago.

“We had very few champions that would really fight for us,” he said. “Every time I’d go into a Senate office, I’d spend five to 10 minutes talking about fraud. And you can’t advance understanding of an issue when you have to play defense.”

In contrast, he said, for last year’s fight for legislation on complex rehabilitation technology (CRT) wheelchairs, there was significant support from both sides of the aisle.

In fact, Whittier added, the CRT fight gave advocates a model to follow on upcoming priorities: be bipartisan, get a score from the Congressional Budget Office, get technical assistance from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), and build committee support.

On the regulatory side, a focus for 2020 is Medicare’s move to a standard written order for some durable medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics and supplies, which Kim Brummet, vice president of regulatory affairs called “probably the largest significant documentation change that we’ve ever seen in our industry.” While generally a positive move, she said, there’s a lack of clarity at an operational level, so her team is reaching out to CMS and the Medicare administrative contractors (MACs). They expect answers to a series of questions from the MACs in about two weeks; meanwhile, she encouraged providers to continue to operate as they have been and not rush to change software.

Another focus across the board is to gather data—through Freedom of Information Act requests and member input—to support the industry’s argument that homecare provides an efficient and effective option for health care.

“We’ve got to get the data, get the metrics and prove that we’re the cost effective environment to be cared for,” Ryan said.