Observation Deck

The Power of Imagineering

Engaging in positive thinking can truly advance HME's legislative aims.

Twenty-five years ago my son gave me a little paperback book entitled, “Imagineering.” The book was from one of his college classes, and he explained that it had resonated with him, as his class studied the power of positive thinking and how it affected one’s health and one’s life — something he knew I fully believed.

The thesis of “Imagineering” was that, to reach a goal, one first had to imagine it, fully embrace the vision, and think of it often. It would take time, it would take work, it would take tenacity. The most important first step was to envision it before it could become reality.

At that time in my life, the little book really impacted me. Our family was undergoing an overwhelming overhaul: a divorce, the death of both my parents within a short time span, and the palpable pressure of trudging forward within the grip of unspeakable sadness and loss. The book helped. I remember reading and re-reading those pages, kicking myself into gear and looking forward to better days that I knew would come.

Words With Staying Power

I was reminded of that little book while hosting a late March reception for industry and business colleagues in Pittsburgh for Sen. Bob Casey, (D-Pa.).

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, activities such as industry advocacy, fundraising and policy debate were things that other people did. I was busy completing specifications for what we now term complex rehab technology (CRT) devices and servicing our most involved clients. The state associations and the national associations took care of “issues.” If I could find the time, I’d attend their annual meetings for updates. Does that scenario sound familiar?

Fast forward to the millennium and onset of competitive bidding. The bid program threatened the financial stability of our business. It was more difficult to remain quiet than to dig deep and find my voice. I could not imagine our industry under the bid system; more importantly, I couldn’t imagine how patient care would prosper under the new design.

Educating Congressmen, attending legislative conferences, writing opinion pieces and lobbying became a necessity. I learned a new skill set: how to pose an issue and present the “ask.” But I first had to get over the paralyzing fear that I could not communicate clearly to office-holders in D.C. So, before a visit to Capitol Hill, I imagined captivating the legislative aid or staff person with my story. Armed with facts and not just passion, and envisioning success, my fear eventually subsided and the process evolved.

Back to the breakfast reception for Sen. Casey: Normally, receptions and issue meetings don’t occur simultaneously, but Casey had introduced S. 486 on March 1, 2017 and that was something to celebrate, as well as discuss. He met with us early morning where we thanked him for his leadership and had a thoughtful dialogue regarding a host of other concerns affecting the health of our industry.

For instance, in Pennsylvania alone, nearly 40 percent of suppliers have closed their doors or have been acquired since 2011; our rural areas are experiencing deep payment cuts paid at the rate of the bid program, impacting patient access to product; and complex rehab technology suppliers are in limbo, anxiously waiting for S.486 (and companion bill H.R. 1361) to be attached to legislation or better yet, Health and Human Services Secretary, Tom Price use his regulatory authority to overturn CMS’s plan to reduce payment as of July 1.

As industry leaders took turns addressing the Senator, I recalled many meetings held with Sen. Casey’s staff since his election to the Senate in 2006. Most of those meetings were with legislative staff where we repeatedly highlighted the illogical structure of the bid program. So many times, we felt stymied, unable to move the needle. But, there we were, 11 years later, specifically discussing the deleterious results of the program with the Senator himself. Now he was personally listening. I reminded myself there was no timeline to imagineering.

Long ago, I had imagined our being able to talk to him directly and now we had a fruitful one-on-one opportunity to explain why the bid program structure must change, what poor policy does to our businesses, and how the many changes are negatively impacting our clients who depend upon our services.

The Senator absorbed the information and vowed to assist. He asked that we stay in touch on these devastating problems while his regional director made continual notes. His strong interest in disability and aging issues was evident. He serves on the powerful Senate Finance committee and the Committee on Aging amidst three others; he can make a difference.

Many, many years ago, I read that little paperback and desperately imagined having a happier life, a satisfying career, and a healthy family. I imagined feeling blessed. Feeling grateful, feeling fulfilled and having a joyful life. Imagineering worked for me back then on a personal level, and I believe it can work now for us professionally.

As the Senator took my hand when leaving, I quipped that we only had 12 weeks to rectify the CRT accessories payment issue, reminding him that the delay is set to expire June 30.

He answered, “that is the way to think about it, in terms of weeks, not month. … I will do all I can.” That is exactly what I wanted to hear and it’s what I had imagined him saying.

Imagineering Protected Access to CRT Accessories

AAHomecare, NCART and The Item Coalition have reached out with letters to members of Congress and to HHS Secretary Price personally. I’m feeling very hopeful, and I am purposely envisioning no cuts to CRT Group 3 accessories come July 1.

I have one other parallel to relate regarding imagineering and successful outcomes. While taking a Dale Carnegie human relations course in the early 1980s, we were instructed to close our eyes and imagine where we wanted to be in five years. I guess I took it literally and not philosophically. I had such a broad smile on my face, the instructor asked me to keep my eyes closed and tell the class exactly where I was at that given moment.

Feeling a bit embarrassed, I explained I was driving down Route 28 south into Pittsburgh in my new little red SL450 Mercedes convertible. It was sunny, my hair was blowing and I felt so fine! Everyone laughed and clapped. Yes, I was embarrassed, but I never forgot that goal. Over the years, I kept imagining that scene, that special feeling until one day it was mine.

As I write this article, I’m imagining that the CRT accessory issue will be resolved before June 30. It’s a powerful thought that’s attainable through our advocacy. Please, imagine with me, then work to gain co-sponsors to S.486 and H.R. 1361. Let’s make this happen!

This article originally appeared in the June 2017 issue of HME Business.

About the Author

Georgie Blackburn is vice president of Government Relations and Legislative Affairs for Pennsylvania-based provider BLACKBURN’S. She can be reached at georgie.blackburn@blackburnsmed.com.


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