FAMES expands program offerings

Saturday, August 31, 2002

Revenue needed to support members
ORLANDO, Fla. — In an age where lobbyists and lawsuits are needed to keep initiatives like competitive bidding from happening, the Florida Association of Medical Equipment Services (FAMES) has expanded its program offerings to boost revenues.

"When something like competitive bidding happens, we want to be a strong voice," said FAMES President Joan Cross. "We want to step back and say, 'No, this isn't right, and this is why.' But you need money for that, whether you want to lobby or go to court."

Last year, FAMES hired a lobbyist for about $2,000 a month. It also has two lawsuits under its belt: The first was an unsuccessful attempt at putting the brakes on the Medicare competitive bidding demonstration in Polk County, Fla., three years ago; the second, which is still in progress, attempts to put the brakes on a current Medicaid competitive bidding project.

To offset expenses, FAMES has just begun offering its 360 member locations a professional employer organization (PEO) health insurance program. When members sign up, the association collects a referral fee. FAMES also has entered a partnership with the San Diego-based Meridian Capital to provide members with capital to start or expand their businesses. When a loan is written, the association collects an introductory fee.

The new programs don't just raise additional revenues for FAMES, though. They also help the association's members run a tighter ship, said Heather E. Allan, executive director of FAMES. For members, the PEO program means insurance rates that are 20% lower because the association buys insurance for thousands of employees rather than members buying insurance for just their handful employees. The partnership with Meridian, which specializes in loans for the healthcare industry, means quicker turnaround.

"[The programs] really break new ground," Allan said. "When you join an association and pay membership dues, you should get services for that money, not just a newsletter once a quarter or a fax bulletin once a month. Providing information is only going to take us and our members so far."

Allan said FAMES is looking into extending the new programs to its sister associations as well, so they can also boost revenues and better help their members run their businesses. With competitive bidding recently hitting North Carolina and Texas, it wouldn't be surprising if other state associations take the route Florida has.

Glynda Turner, executive director of the Texas-based Medical Equipment Suppliers Association (MESA), said increasing her association's program offerings isn't a priority right now, but "things could change" with competitive bidding heating up. HME