Keep state associations on priority list

Monday, April 25, 2011

Has competitive bidding--a program that is expected to force numerous home medical equipment providers to cut their staff or close their doors--affected membership levels at state and regional associations?

The answer ranges from not at all to a little, according to the executive directors of four state associations.

The Midwest Association for Medical Equipment Services (MAMES) reports that its membership levels for 2011 are above 2010. But Rose Schafhauser, executive director of MAMES, realizes it may be too early to gauge competitive bidding's impact on HME providers and therefore on membership levels.

"The fear I have is that six months down the road we'll hear more reports of providers having revenue problems," she said. "Everyone did their projections based on losing some Medicare revenue this year, but they're trying to get that revenue from elsewhere and if they don't, there may be problems. Also, Round 2 is starting this year. Five of the seven states MAMES covers are included."

For the first time "in a long time," membership levels have dropped in 2011 for the North Carolina Association for Medical Equipment Services, says Executive Director Beth Bowen.

"But it was less than 10% and it was expected," she said.

Is there a silver lining? Because competitive bidding will change the shape of the industry, it will drive new players to different states. That could increase membership levels for some associations, says John Shirvinsky, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of Medical Suppliers.

"None of the new companies coming in from out of state have signed up yet, but it's something to consider," he said. "We'll see how serious they are about being part of the fabric of Pennsylvania."

Providers may be pinching pennies, but they can't lose sight of the necessity of being members of their state or regional associations, executive directors say.

"Right now, more than ever, you need that peer support; you need those educational opportunities," said Liz Moran, executive director of the Medical Equipment Suppliers Association (MESA). "There's just so much the association can offer you. It's worth far more than what you pay in dues." hme