Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Next Step to Save our Profession

There has been a great deal of talk about these two programs, Medicare and Social Security. They may become bankrupt! Is that possible?

Yes, it is very likely to happen if we sit by idly and not lift a finger to bring about some needed changes. One of the great things about our country is that as a democracy, we “the people” can accomplish a great deal when we act in unison.  Since our industry, depends a great deal on these programs, we must gather our resources and then move forward, not sit back and wait for someone else to react.

In the September Issue of HomeCare Magazine I wrote “Time for Teamwork” and spoke about the importance of our State DME and National Associations.   At the Medtrade Exposition in Atlanta I saw each DME Association hard at work to bring together a tidal wave of support. Every association was working with one another on behalf, of not only their members, but also for our industry.

The first thing I became aware of is that the Medicare Trust Fund is sufficiently funded to last until year 2024.  At that time, if no changes were made Medicare would be able to pay only 87% of expenses. So we see that there are just about a dozen years to correct that shortfall. Social Security has a different life span; it can provide benefits until year 2037.

Dr. Tom Price speaking at Power for Funding
What can we do now? It is imperative that we all work together as a team to bring about a new approach to resolve these difficulties.

One of our tasks is to get the MPP legislation passed. This will allow a great deal of relief to all DME/HME dealers and rid the industry of the offensive competitive bid. I was able to meet Representative Tom Price at Medtrade. It is reassuring to know that many of our elected legislators are recognizing what he has introduced.  I was just one of many attendees at Medtrade who were able to have that privilege. Getting this bill through Congress must be high on our list of projects. The State and National associations are leading the way to get through Congress. Please give them your support.

Fraud and abuse is the major enemy we have to eliminate from the system. When we see published in the newspapers how many dollars they suck out of the system, the solution becomes very apparent. If we can clean out this abuse, there would be sufficient money for Medicare. We must give 100% support to our associations to get this accomplished. Get on board now. Your future depends on their efforts so they can obtain the results you require to save our business.

AA Homecare President, Tyler Wilson, at the Stand Up for Homecare Reception
There are very specific goals that our industry must achieve. I commented on the two must important, MPP and fraud & abuse. However you cannot do that alone, but you, as a DME/HME provider can make great strides forward when combining your efforts with others. I am sure you applaud the work of AAHomecare, NAIMES and the state DME Associations. They get much good work accomplished, but they can do a great deal more. That is where you come in.

If you are not a dues-paying member of these professional organizations, please become one now. They need you and then they will help maintain your company, but you must help them with your participation (both financial and working with them). If you are currently a member, and then by all means help them by soliciting your friends and competitors to also get on board. If we can get membership as close to 100% as possible, we will see much more completed to protect us and our clientele.

Always keep in mind the many patients, senior citizens and customers who keep your company solvent. They are a very powerful ally to keep DME/HME locations running efficiently.

They depend on your ability to keep them in good health and they will rally to support your efforts. I spoke with an active dealer at Medtrade. He uses the e–mail to keep his customers apprised of what is happening that might affect them. He offers a few specials and he shares good health ideas every few weeks. He told me that after each release he gets requests from others to receive his messages.  (Look for an affordable and simple e-mail marketing program like Constant Contact.)

You, too, can do the same. Your clientele can become supporters for the MPP. They will help us get rid of the yoke of the competitive bid and become active partners working with you to eliminate fraud and abuse.

It is amazing how much you, an active HME/DME provider can accomplish when working in tandem with you clientele and your national and state associations. In the many years I have been writing similar articles, speaking at many association meetings and listening to the feedback one thing has become crystal clear.  Everyone of your can be a leader.  I ask that each DME/HME provider gather together your customers, their family caregivers and then as a team will make a difference. That is what has made the United States of America such a fantastic country. It has always listened to VOX POPULI (Voice of the People) and by providing the facts and guidance, we will benefit!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Through Shelly's Spectacles: Medtrade 2012 Consumer Advocacy

Since the very first exhibition held in Atlanta some 33 years ago, I have had the good fortune to watch and see how Medtrade has grown and expanded. There has never been a venue where DME/HME providers could attend and then return home filled with so many good ideas and opportunities.

I will share my thoughts for those who missed Medtrade and also add to what the attendees participated in the next blog or two. This year was a giant step forward for all of the participants as well as the industry: CONSUMER ADVOCACY!

Prior to cutting the ribbon for the opening of the exhibition there was a meeting of the “Power for Funding” committee, Congressman Tom Price (R-GA) spoke about the bill he has introduced for MPP (we must all work to get this through Congress) to replace the existing Competitive Bid legislation.

Show Director Kevin Gaffney then opened the hall and many of us headed directly to the Advocacy Pavilion. Every comment I heard about this was a “thank you” for setting aside the space and allowing this to be built. Yes, it was that impressive.

A bit about the pavilion. In the educational Learning Destination feature called "Homecare Works! The Path to Better Affordable Healthcare."  It was full-scale home display with four lovely docents walking groups of attendees though and explaining each of the displays.  In the home, each room included products from various manufacturers in the setting they would actually be used.  As a reward at the end of the tour, they were offered a “hot dog” with trimmings. The backside of this exhibit had very important Consumer Advocacy associations present, each there to explain their role.  To name a few: United Cerebral Palsy, Shepherd Center, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Muscular Dystrophy Association, COPD and others.

The major sponsor in building the Advocacy Pavilion was MK Battery. Philips Respironics and others joined Medtrade with them. When I saw how these companies and their staffs worked so closely together, I can state unequivocally that the future of our industry is superb. I must add my thank you for all that MK Battery has accomplished in the last few years. They made this Advocacy Day a success.

Wayne Merdinger, VP, MK Battery told me this is part of their effort to bring together more cooperation between providers and consumer advocacy associations. Keith Durni on behalf of Philips Healthcare echoed the same.

I recommend that every DME/HME provider offer “Consumer Advocacy Days” in their community. By building this, you will help make some great solutions locally. Your customers can join us in the efforts to bring the MPP legislation to Congress and get it passed. Yes, our industry has a lot at stake. We must be successful! Please follow the leaders, your state and national associations.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Shelly Looks Back: The First Medtrade

The First Medtrade Show

Think back! Try to recall the very first Medtrade Exhibition that you went to? Were you present at the Georgia World Center or did you go to the hotel?

I was very fortunate in that I did attend the very first and yes, it was held at the Georgia World Center. The second show was held at what was then a Marriott Hotel. They were both great fun!

The first “Medtrade” (not so identified then) was really a social event. So many friends getting together, both the vendors and the dealers, and we all really shared a most enjoyable event. There even were some sales made!

Little did any of us recognize these first two shows would evolve into the one most important event for DME/HME dealers and providers? Today there is a very major difference, one that takes precedence over all other reasons (and there are many) for attending Medtrade. It has matured today into the one best source of education for the industry.

Just count the large number of speakers and classes that are held. How many sit in at each? Many lectures are SRO (standing room only). Now add to that total the number of important people such as Senators, Representatives, attorneys and university faculty. These all are educators who have agreed to participate.

When I try to comprehend what Medtrade has become, I am flabbergasted. I don’t think there is any other venue where so much is made available. Whether you are a DME/HME provider, manufacturer or other allied professional, Medtrade is where everything happens. I will see you in Atlanta.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Why MPP?

We have a challenge facing our industry and it is probably the ONE momentous pending legislation that can save our profession! This MARKET PRICING PROGRAM (MPP) basically is the only fair way for a DME/HME provider. Learn the details; get everyone involved, because you and your staff can influence the vote.

At Medtrade there will be much material available to help guide you. A great number of discussions are scheduled where you can obtain the knowledge necessary to deliver your message. The Representative from Georgia, Dr. Tom Price, who introduced this legislation, will be attending Medtrade.  There will be a reception on Wednesday (10/ 16 @ 10:00 AM in room B13), which you should attend to show your support.

What is the Market Pricing Program? It is not a competitive bid program governed by politicians who only look for $$$, not results.  CMS is trying to bring reimbursements down so low that only the least expensive (cheapest) products can be provided with no service or care!

My career has included building three pharmacies, working for a major med-surg distributor, being one myself and spending a number of years as a manufacturers rep. I realize what MPP means, do you?

I know and understand what you provide and I appreciate the service your customers get. Price is not the factor! The care and concern you give is always the platform dealers bring to their clientele. This is not included in reimbursements, so it is vital to get the MPP program through Congress.

A Market Pricing Program can be described as giving your clientele the best. Cost and retail is always a factor. The competition is another component but customer satisfaction is what makes you a success. Service and satisfaction always beats price.

You have the ability to speak to every customer and their family caregivers. Explain why they must get involved. They do not want to lose your service or be forced to travel great distances for their needs They are all very well aware of this and when you return from Medtrade, armed with all the material you need, take the few days left until votes are cast and ask for support.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Shelly Looks Back: Planting a Seed

When I was a Boy Scout (generations ago) I thought it would be a nice idea to grow vegetables. I did. This took place when WW2 started and we developed a “victory garden.” It all began when we planted a seed.

I received a most intriguing report from a DME/HME provider in a small city in the Northeast. After reading one of these blogs, he hired a new salesperson. He liked the idea of contacting the community college in town. They recommended a young lady for what he described as an “entry level job” to home care as a profession.

His competition was a major company, few similar DMEs and pharmacies. Each of them were doing well but none were dominating the market. This new hire was very successful. As a consequence, a large number of new customers were directed to him.

The young lady asked if she could include supplies when she made her calls. They compiled a short list of commonly used products by physicians (adhesive bandages, gauze pads, etc). Sales expanded and so did the list. They added items they normally stocked which included stethoscopes and BP monitors. These sales kept getting larger and led more patients being guided to their location.

Why not do something similar and “cherry pick” what we identify as med-surg supplies. Solicit the EMTs, fire and police departments for new sales, especially if you handle oxygen. Add schools, local business and other places people gather. Small sales can bring many new dollars.

At Medtrade, in a few days you will see a multitude of products your company can very successfully market. Come to Atlanta to seek these opportunities and make the coming year one where your company will expand and increase both sales and profits. Plant a seed and harvest a crop!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Prepare & Work Together!

There are many problems that must be resolved facing our industry. The action to address them is paramount on every DME/HME proprietors “to-do” list. I am fortunate to hear from many dealers from different parts of the country. I am also cognizant there are answers which can be found.

All I propose to do is help guide you all through Medtrade Fall in Atlanta. It is almost time to cut the ribbon and start the “show”. Notice I did not say “festivities” because this year, everyone I have spoken with is going to Atlanta to seek answers.

Sit down with your employees and sort out those major problems you wish to address. If you are for MPP, write that down. If you want to see the competitive bid eliminated, record that. If you are seeking new products to feature, make a list of the appropriate vendors to visit and check out the new product pavilion! If you are not a member of a state or national association, by all means please put that on your “do it” list. (Here's a list of State Associations)

Carefully review the speakers and classes offered at Medtrade that will help your operation. Attend as many as possible and, if you bring any employees, direct them to attend others. Save the handouts and share them when you return with your entire staff. 

There are additional opportunities awaiting you. A large number of the State Associations will be manning tables on the exhibition floor. Please visit yours and let them know you appreciate their efforts. Bringing local and state problems to the attention of state legislators is one of their specialties. AAHomecare and NAIMES address national problems. If you are not currently a member of these, please join. You no longer have the ability to stand-alone.

My personal goal is to speak with as many providers, dealers, and vendors to hear what they wish to see accomplished. You must do the same.

As I said in my opening, yes we have problems, but by working together a large number can be resolved.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Today's Economy

I am flabbergasted as I listen to the “wanna-be candidates” constantly saying many bad things about their opponents.

When we hear their “compliments” about each other, how do they expect us to trust them? We all have a good idea about what is wrong!  Yes, I agree, we do need some changes. However they refuse to tell us how they will put in place the “ideas” to which they refer.

So I did a great deal of study. I read four newspapers every day: the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and two local publications. Here are some facts reported by each.

1.) Construction of new homes is rising.
2.) Sales of existing homes are growing at a very rapid pace.
3.) Although we still have a great deal of unemployment, new jobs are being filled daily.
4.) The stock market is slowly heading to new heights.
5.) The price of crude oil is going down.

I can prepare a similar list of the problems we face, but my primary interest is mainly for the DME/HME industry. What do we seek?  We should never be the scapegoats for the country’s economy. When we are able to return to a normal business operation, many problems will be resolved.

The competitive bid will force many smaller companies to fail. Every DME/HME Company who is forced to close his doors puts more pressure on the economy. The MPP (marketing pricing program) will allow every dealer to earn a fair share of the market. I can vouch for this because as small dealer, in a very large pond, I was able to maintain and successfully grow my “little” operation. 

I cannot tell you how important it is that we all join forces and become a formidable influence on Congress.  We do not have the amount of funds the conglomerates spend to give to the political party they want elected. As an industry, by working with AAHomecare, NAIMES, the state associations and the buying groups we can influence our customers, family caregivers and others to vote for and support the politicians who recognize the role of  DME/HME. Believe it or not, we can be that powerful.

"Stand Up for Homecare" with AA Homecare at Medtrade 2012

At Medtrade, which is only a week away, you will be able to make your voice heard. In Atlanta you will listen to the people who work with us. Be there, join your association if you are not currently a member. Watch and see what a powerful influence we can become! United we will be successful, divided we will fail.

The economy is getting better! Now is when we all must get on the offensive to guide our Congress to put in place the necessary changes.

Yes, we can do that! 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Will you Stand Up for Homecare?

Will you? Will you “STAND UP FOR HOMECARE?” Of course you will!

  • You are a DME/HME provider.
  • You have a very active operation.
  • You have a family and employees who depend on you.
  • You have many loyal customers.

All of that is what makes you “HOMECARE”

Every year in Atlanta, Thelma and I participate in the most enjoyable fundraiser available to support our industry (that is you!). We always attend the “Stand Up for Homecare” fund raiser sponsored by the American Association for Homecare (AAHomecare).

I look back and I able to see how much they have accomplished, not just for their members, but also for every DME/HME dealer, provider and manufacturer.

One of my goals is to see a larger percentage of dealers and providers support the state and national associations. I would love to see that number rise closer to 100%. They work for you, but not enough of you help provide the funds they require.

Cost of membership in a state or national association is normal operating expense for every dealer (ask your accountant). The small investments you make when you join, not only help you maintain your company, but also assist you to expand in many ways. I receive the e-mails many associations send to their members. I recognize the fantastic ROI their members earn from this investment.

If you are going to Medtrade, by all means, please attend the AAHomecare’s Stand Up for Homecare Reception. The cost is a contribution of $150. You get so much for so little. The reception will be held Tuesday, October 16, from 5:30 PM until 7:00 PM. Thelma and I will be there, so please say hello, share a drink with us and “nosh” some of the goodies.
Stand Up for Homecare Medtrade Spring 2012

Show AAHomecare how much they mean to you and your company.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Help for Small Business

I do not like to use the term “small business”.  The average DME/HME location may not have the same volume as does a Target or a WalMart, but for the principal, it is still a “very large” operation. The owner's family and the employees all depend on its success to maintain their way of life!

This makes the average DME/HME location into a big business because they have a following of clientele and customers who depend on them.

Recently, there was an interesting article in my local newspaper about entrepreneurship. It listed some programs available when you seek help. As the economy of the United States has started back on the road to recovery these sources can be of great value. When I had my company, I was able to get some very excellent advice through SCORE. The personnel of SCORE are all retired, very successful business executives.

As I met with them, I showed every segment of my operation and told them how much money I was seeking. After the SCORE counselor studied each facet of how we function, he assisted me in obtaining a bank loan.

Today, there are also more than 1,000 Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) throughout the country. Their counselors are available to provide free one-on-one sessions with you. They will also help develop a new business plan, help manage your accounting and give advice for marketing.

This free service is available for every DME/HME provider. You should contact SBDC so they can help you develop new approaches.

This year at Medtrade (10/16-10/18) there will be many opportunities and experts to help you find answers. The economy is getting brighter and it is your turn to be in the forefront!

Yes, there is a lot of help available for your business. Take advantage of the opportunity. This year Medtrade is the best place to get answers. Come prepared and learn how to attain every one of your goals. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Get Out the VOTE!

I do not understand why every eligible citizen in the United States does not vote? This is an enigma, a problem, and as DME/HME providers we can help resolve and perform a tremendous service!

It is vital that everyone cast a ballot. It is imperative you ask your customers, patients, family caregivers and friends to vote. However, in business, you must be careful who you tell whom you will endorse or the party you support. Only tell people why you are concerned and if they ask for your opinion on the candidate, you can tell them.  If they respect you as a person, they will respect your choice. That is your role!

The situation I envision is who ever wins the election, the number of votes cast will be close! That being the case, the politicians will have to recognize that almost as many citizens who voted them into office, a similar number approved their opposition. Being elected by 50.5% to 49.5% or something that close, is not a mandate, it is a plea for co-operation.

When this happens, elected officials will be obliged to work together to get any legislation passed. This co-operation will turn our “declining “ economy into one filled with opportunity. The United States will be the leader in the world. We will show the way and bring relations back to normal.

So I ask, please vote and by all means, see how many lethargic citizens will heed your advice.  

For more information on voting and registration visit: http://www.usa.gov/Citizen/Topics/Voting.shtml