At Home with Dealers
Company Name: Alpine Home Medical Equipment
4030 S. State St.
Salt Lake City, UT 84107
Established: April 1997
Type of Products Offered: Broad range of DME products, including bath aides, lift chairs, power chairs, oxygen, walking aides, scooters, stair and vehicle lifts, wheelchairs and more
Size of Company: 42 employees and four locations in Salt Lake City, Ogden, Provo and St. George
Home Health Products spoke to Jay Broadbent, owner.
You recently met with Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, to discuss proposed legislation for competitive bidding. What happened at the meeting?
Competitive bidding is very much geared for large national companies, so what (the proposed legislation) does is it helps protect the small business. What happened at the meeting was Sen. Hatch came out, did a site visit, met with myself, Tom Bradley from Petersen Medical (Provo, Utah) — he's one of my competitors just down the road. We both had patients of ours that came and also shared some of their experiences with the senator. The senator took a tour of the building, but basically we sat down in our conference room and we asked the senator to sponsor the Senate companion bill to HR 3559.
What was his response to the tour and meeting with the clients?
It was very positive. He was very positive to (me) as a business owner — he's very pro small business. I took him out to my warehouse. His comment to me was, "You're very heavily invested in this." And I said, "Yes. I feel like I've bet the farm on this industry. We need your help." When he talked to our patients, they relayed experiences where they were with other providers and where they didn't feel like they were getting the service that they needed, (and) they had the opportunity to change providers and go to somebody that can provide better service. And then they were able to explain to the senator that with competitive bidding the way it stands now, that option would be taken away from them. And so I think it really drove the point home to the senator that competitive bidding is really anti-competitive.
Had the senator had the opportunity to visit any other providers before coming to Alpine Home Medical Equipment?
In years past he has; he's not a stranger to our industry. But on this particular issue, this was I believe his first visit. We visited his office several times back in D.C.
Is that how you went about setting up the site tour and the meeting with him?
Probably what got the ball rolling was we developed a relationship with his health legislative aide, who has really given us an ear to our concerns and the industry concerns.
How did you go about getting your competitor on board to come out and meet with the senator?
Tom and I have worked together back before competitive bidding was even put into law. He and I had flown back to Washington to meet with our Utah delegation and had lobbied all of our representatives, and from there we had made contacts and tried to develop relationships with the different representatives.
Did you talk about any other HME industry topics with Sen. Hatch?
We wanted to but we were only given an hour, and in reality we only got about 45 minutes. To really drive the point home, we focused solely on competitive bidding, but his legislative aide is very aware of the 36-month cap on oxygen (and) competitive bidding. But with the senator, we didn't want to dilute the message.
What do you think the outcome of the meeting will be? Did he say how he was going to vote or how this meeting influenced him?
We specifically asked him to sponsor the Senate side of this legislation. He said that he would take it under consideration (and) that he had a lot of sympathy for our industry — for both small business and the patient's need to have choice in their providers. We're still trying to get a commitment from him. I've been in contact with his office almost daily, and we're actively working on it, trying to get that commitment.
How did you prepare for this meeting?
First of all, we weren't given a lot of notice. We had been working with both the local office and his D.C. office trying to get this meeting to take place. And they gave us one week's notice. They said, "OK, he'll be here in a week." So, we really had to scramble. One of the first things I did was called my competitor and asked him and his patients to come, and then we scrambled to get some of our patients to see if their schedule would (allow them to) make themselves available to come and express some of their concerns to the senator. We worked with his office to make sure that it was a positive visit. We tried to make sure that the senator knew what he was getting into when he walked through the doors. So, his legislative aide was able to prep him on what it was that we were trying to communicate to him. So, he wasn't walking through with no clue about our industry or what it is that we're facing or what it is that we're trying to accomplish. He basically knew what it was that we wanted and needed before he even came to our door, which I think was really helpful.
What advice would you give other HME dealers who are interested in setting up similar meetings with their representatives?
Get involved. Build relationships with their representatives. That's why we vote these people in is to help us and learn the issues. Develop relationships because that's really what helped us get the senator to come out and take interest in this issue. And really that was through the legislative aide. They've got to be interested in the issue because they really can help you a ton. Get on a plane; go back to Washington; meet with them back there; go and visit the local offices. It's got to be a part of doing business. We can't put our heads in the sand and hope that this issue's going to just go away on its own because it's not. I want to be really clear: I've got local competitors that, that is their attitude is that somehow magically competitive bidding will go away. And it's very frustrating when they can't get them to attend get-togethers or lobbying efforts. They take no responsibility when it comes to their own business and livelihood. And I think that apathy is going to kill us.
This article originally appeared in the July 2006 issue of HME Business.