Where does the industry go from here? That topic was discussed by a roundtable panel of leaders from the home medical equipment (HME) community during a general session that started off the first day of Medtrade.
Tyler Wilson, president of AAHomecare, led a discussion about trends driving change. Participants included Invacare VP Cara Bachenheimer, BLACKBURN’S VP Georgie Blackburn, Alan Landauer, chair of Landauer Metropolitan, Pride Mobility Chairman and CEO Scott Meuser, and John Miclot, president and CEO of Philips Respironics.
Alan Landauer observed that the HME sector needs to be realistic and be more active than other healthcare sectors competing for attention in Washington. Many lawmakers still consider cuts to homecare as “low hanging fruit” that can easily be picked off. Going forward, he said, “We need to provide solutions.” His advice to companies facing both tighter credit and lower reimbursement rates: “Make friends with your bank.”
Scott Meuser said survivors in the HME sector will be those companies that innovate and are economically efficient. The HME sector also needs to adopt a marketing perspective to combating the problems in Washington. The fraud issue, he said, is “ruining our brand.” While there has been encouraging progress, Meuser noted “We have to market the value proposition” of homecare. To get that message across, “AAHomecare is the Chief Marketing Officer. We need more providers joining AAHomecare.” Also, he said after the many long battles in Washington, the homecare community needs to “create an era of mutual trust” with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
Georgie Blackburn noted that working with lawmakers on Capitol Hill has been eye-opening and encouraging. Meeting recently with a congressional office, “I found an applaud for our industry. The congressional staff said, ‘How can I help you, Georgie?’” She pointed to the success the HME community has achieved this year as evidence for optimism. “When we speak together, we can make changes.” Her advice to companies: “Payor mix keeps you healthy.” But she noted that Medicare rates serve as a benchmark, and therefore HME must be paid fairly by all payors.
John Miclot commented that the future of homecare will be characterized by patients with a wider range of diseases, and the number of those patients will be “substantially larger.” He said new technologies will be available to help care for people in their homes. “It will be a very exciting time for the industry.” But in the meantime, he noted, “we need some stability over three to five years – that would be very healthy for the industry.”
Cara Bachenheimer said HME will have an evolving role in healthcare involving therapies of greater complexity for and increased variety of illnesses. The HME sector needs to continue to work to “unify and pull together” in order to accomplish some of the key tasks ahead, such as getting the services required in HME recognized and paid for in Medicare. Bachenheimer noted that legislators on Capitol Hill recognize the expertise in the HME sector and appreciate ideas and suggestions from HME. For instance, the AAHomecare 13-point plan to stop Medicare fraud represents “the meat of the matter,” she said.