Observation Deck

HME Patriots Arise!

The current political environment might be just what the homecare industry needs.

It hasn’t happened yet, but the political environment has never been better for the HME industry to strike a blow for healthcare sanity by banishing thefoolish and deceptively named Medicare “competitive” bidding program.

If you haven’t noticed the signs, keep a sharp eye peeled. It has never been more important that our industry stand firm and press our case at every possible opportunity, particularly in this critical election year.

The 2010 election season is shaping up to be a year of change — big change. Perhaps seismic change. Depending on whose polling projections you listen to, there appears to be near-universal agreement that congressional Republicans are set to erase a 78-vote Democratic majority and re-take control of the House — at a minimum.

To do so would require winning about 40 seats. Some prognosticators have the GOP taking as many as 80 seats now held by Democrats. The Democratic 19-seat majority in the U.S. Senate, while a more-daunting challenge, also appears to be in play. Most are projecting a minimum six-seat turnover and the math exists that would place the Republicans in charge of the upper chamber as well by winning ten states.

At the heart of all of this anticipated change lies the so-called Tea Party movement, a genuine grassroots phenomenon of everyday Americans who have collectively arisen to say “no” to big government intrusions into our economy, our healthcare and our pockets.

I call the movement genuine because of what I see in the throngs of regular folk who are turning up in state after state to object to an agenda that places too much power into the hands of Washington while restricting the freedoms of the free enterprise system that has made this country the envy of the world.

Reading the Crowd

One of the more interesting jobs I have held in my career was as a project manager for a large solid waste management company. Among my responsibilities was running the inevitable town hall meetings. Yes, I was the lucky guy who got to explain to the town folk why having a landfill for a neighbor would be a good thing.

What that experience taught me is how to read a crowd. It doesn’t take long to separate the “concerned citizen” from the “professional agitator.” What I see today in the Tea Party movement is genuine. I see real people — not politicians — taking time off from their jobs and their small businesses to exercise their rights as American citizens to have their voices heard.

They are expressing sentiments that most of us take for granted as responsible adults. That we must live within our means. That we cannot borrow our way to prosperity. That American ingenuity will solve problems and put people to work if the government will just get out of the way.

From the badly botched healthcare reform, to bank bailouts, to stimulus funding, to job-threatening energy policy, to recovery-dampening tax increases, the people are seeing multiple trillion-dollar government initiatives that fundamentally threaten businesses, jobs and the American way of life. The Tea Party has given voice to these concerns in a way that neither political party would dare to attempt.

HME Patriots

Medicare’s suicide bidding program is just one more example of a government program intruding into the private sector and destroying businesses and jobs. With projections for HME business failures in the thousands and job losses topping 100,000 it is startling to hear the indifference of many in Washington toward the harm that CB will inflict.

“It’s not my job to ensure that individual companies stay in business,” is a common response among congressional supporters of the Medicare bidding scheme.

Imagine that. The very folks who enacted the law that requires the bidding program that will force small business people to lose their livelihoods and fire their employees claim that they bear no responsibility in the matter.

As infuriating as that sentiment may be, there is good news. First, a clear majority of the House of Representatives supports the Meek repeal bill, H.R. 3790, thus putting those who want to ignore the impacts in the minority.

Second, 2010 is a very important election year and big changes are in the offing. Changes that are being sparked by a grassroots movement of ordinary, law-abiding Americans like you and me who are tired of being bullied, harassed and intimidated by big government.

It is time for the HME Patriots to arise! Our backs are against the wall and our very survival is being threatened. It is NOT the role of the federal government to put our companies out of business just because they can.

The Medicare suicide bidding program is wrong; it is anti-competitive; and it is anti-American. In these final days before the 2010 mid-term congressional elections it is essential that we rally, along with our employees, our patients, our vendors and our friends and families to demand an end to the suicide bidding nightmare and to demand accountability from those we help to elect to higher office.

The future of cost-effective healthcare, especially end-of-life care, is to be found in the home. Any policy that eliminates the providers of the equipment that makes home-based care possible is wrong-headed and needs to be repealed. Our patients deserve better. Our employees deserve better. And America deserves better.

At the end of the day, this isn’t about supporting the Tea Party. And it isn’t about voting for Republicans or Democrats. It’s about doing the right thing for yourself, for your employees, for your patients and for affordable healthcare in America.

Vote HME in 2010! It may be our last chance for survival.

This article originally appeared in the October 2010 issue of HME Business.

About the Author

John Shirvinsky is the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Association of Medical Suppliers and can be reached via email at jshirvinsky@pamsonline.org.

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