Respiratory Solutions

Become a Warrior for DME

The level of negative noise about the DME industry is getting louder every day. Dozens of articles and news stories over the past months and years have talked about the negative side of DME, with very few having a positive note. Much of this noise seems to be firmly rooted in negativity from inside the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and Health & Human Services (HHS). Because much of the information Congress sees is from government agencies, the negative message is amplified. It is hard for this small industry to rally together. We must take a different approach by creating an army of independent warriors for our cause.

We need every provider to become a warrior for DME and join a national campaign to improve the perception of our industry. We are part of an honorable industry built on the foundation of service. We are neighbors serving neighbors. We are small businesses providing the right care at home. To help those who are unaware of the value of home care, we must tell them.

Warriors for DME are suppliers and advocates who will stand and be counted. They are people who will write letters to local papers and contact local TV and radio stations. They are owners and managers who will create local stories about the value of home care. Warriors for DME also are providers who will develop a relationship with legislators and dispel the myth that the industry is riddled with fraud.

To be a warrior for DME, providers must stay informed, and that means being involved with industry and state associations. Providers must read, listen and research to keep current on issues facing the industry. Suppliers must get involved politically and be ready to join the grass-roots choir.

This industry has more than 110,000 active supplier numbers. More than 17,000 of these are independent, full-line providers, and 52,000 are pharmacy-based DME suppliers. Yet, only a few hundred are actively involved with grass-roots activities. For us to make a difference for our industry, we need thousands involved. We cannot have an effective choir or army without you.

To participate, you don't necessarily need to travel to Washington, however. Ask any member of Congress and he or she will tell you that reaching him/her at home is much easier than in Washington. Most members of Congress have 20 or more meetings a day plus floor votes and committee meetings. Your voice is lost in the noise that is the reality of Washington politics. If you are active and involved locally, you can be a part of the army pushing the message to Washington.

An army of motivated, committed and passionate warriors is the solution to getting the message of DME to the right ears in government. The more boots on the ground in this fight, the better the chance we have of winning. Joining that warrior chorus is much easier than you can imagine. Here is the challenge for every DME provider in America:

  • Join a state or regional association. After joining, don't sit at the back, come up front and lead. Make your association strong.
  • Join a national association and again, come to the front and lead.
  • Make a point of getting to know the representative from your district. Call the district office, get acquainted with staff and make friends.
  • Be a public voice for the value of home care and DME. Do this by writing stories for local publications and getting your patients involved.
  • Politicians are not the only ones that can hold town hall meetings. You can, too. Hold a free meeting open to the public to talk about home care and DME.
  • Offer to speak to local health civic groups and clubs, such as AARP. Remember, consumers can help you change political minds. Consumers vote.

If we wait for someone else to save us, we are lost. It takes more than a few leaders beating the drum of change; it takes an army of troops following the leaders. If the leaders are not on the right path, come to the front and be a leader. Such an army of warriors can be the new force for change. This is an army that fights battles with words through phone calls and letters. Recruiting stations are open at every DME association office across America. Sign up today.

This article originally appeared in the Respiratory Management May 2009 issue of HME Business.

About the Author

Wayne Stanfield, a former air traffic controller, has been in the DME industry for 20 years. He is currently president and CEO of the National Association of Independent Medical Equipment Suppliers (NAIMES), as well as the executive director of the Home Care Alliance of Virginia Inc. (HCAV), a provider network with 63 locations in 11 states. He can be reached at (434) 572-9457 or via e-mail at yourfuture@dmehelp.org.

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