MARTINEZ, Ga. — With the aim of turning up the volume of
the voice of the small home medical equipment provider, the
Committee to Save Independent HME Suppliers unveiled a new Web site
this week.

The Web site,, offers information about the group and
the efforts of its lobbyist, John Blount, and publicist, Crystal
Wright. It also provides a method for people to help subsidize
those efforts.

"The goal of the Web site is to have a platform for people to
understand our goals and objectives and participate," said David
Petsch, president of Petsch Respiratory in Martinez, Ga., and
managing director of CSIHME. "CSIHME was intended simply to be a
way for the smaller, independent provider's voice to be better
heard," he added. "We do know that those who have the loudest voice
are getting the most attention. So we're trying to increase the
volume of providers around the country."

The group was organized in April
when providers were grappling with implementation of the 36-month
oxygen cap, mandatory accreditation, surety bonds and the upcoming
rebid of DMEPOS competitive
. It was "intended to be a bunch of suppliers who wanted
to affect what was happening in Washington," Petsch said.

The organization hired Blount of the Capitol Hill Consulting
Group and Wright of the Baker Wright Group to help get the facts
out about HME to the media. A release from the group noted Wright
has helped to generate a dozen stories in key media markets,
including two in the Wall Street Journal that highlighted
the effects of the 36-month oxygen cap on Medicare

Petsch said the group is currently focused on gaining cosponsors
for H.R.
, the bill introduced by Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Fla., that
would repeal competitive bidding. The Web site should enhance that
effort, he said.

Petsch said he also has no doubt there will be more hits coming
for HME providers. He's seen it happen before, in the 1990s when he
was a part of the home health sector.

"I'd seen it happen to home health," he recalled. "But I've
never seen [any sector] attacked as aggressively as we are now.
It's overwhelming." Like every other provider, Petsch added, "I'm
fighting every day to keep my business going. We've got more fires
than fire extinguishers."

But he's heartened by the efforts of other providers. "I'm
encouraged at seeing more and more people standing up for what they
do in this industry," he said. "I think these people do what they
do because they love it. So many of us are in the business because
we believe we can truly make a difference. We need to stand up and
make our voices heard."

In the end, Petsch said he hopes the Web site can help to dispel
the myths about HME. "[The industry doesn't] have enemies so much
as we have the lack of knowledge from the other side," he said.
"Once you get people to understand the whole picture, they'll come
to the same understanding."

It's important that legislators and regulators understand the
collateral damage of some of their decisions, said Petsch. He's
frustrated, he said, that the 36-month cap hasn't been stopped and
that competitive bidding hasn't been stopped.

"All of this affects the industry in more ways than I could even
imagine," he said. "The more people we can involve, the