Spring renewal: ‘2017 is our year,’ says AAH’s Tom Ryan

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Friday, March 3, 2017

LAS VEGAS – The HME industry descended on Medtrade Spring last week with renewed vigor.

“The challenges keep coming but we have an unprecedented opportunity to move the needle this year,” said Tom Ryan, president and CEO of AAHomecare, during the association’s Washington Update Feb. 28. “2017 is our year.”

The key reason for the overall positive outlook: Tom Price, the new secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, who the industry is looking to for help with everything from competitive bidding to the audit mess.

In a Feb. 28 letter to Price, AAHomecare asked Price to repeal Medicare rates that went into effect in non-bid areas July 1, 2016.

“We need to arm Dr. Price with information to work with CMS to make changes,” said Jay Witter, senior vice president of public policy for AAHomecare. “We need your continued stories; we need data.”

The show, held Feb. 27–March 1 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, featured dozens of educational sessions that had a major format refresh. More panel discussions, new seating and a tight focus were the result of a “hard look” at attendee feedback from the fall show in Atlanta, says Show Director Kevin Gaffney.

“We wanted to create a vibe of having a conversation instead of a classroom setting,” he said. “If providers are struggling, we want to address that. We wanted to focus on how we survive and thrive, and go from there.”

On the show floor, which featured about 180 exhibitors, the mood was also upbeat. Although the show is smaller, exhibitors say foot traffic was better than expected.

“There’s been a steady flow—people from all over,” said Tom Miller, with Charlottesville, Va.-based Human Design Medical. “This is still cost-effective way for us to meet customers.”

Michelle Kimball, with Salem, Mass.-based Handy Cane said the company’s booth was packed on Tuesday, the day the exhibit hall opened. Show attendees voted for the *Handy Cane as the No. 1 new product in the show’s New Product Pavilion.

“People want unique products and I think more are looking to do cash and carry,” she said. “It’s important we are connected with decision makers and we met lots of them—lots of distributors and DMEs of all sizes.”

Miller echoed the need for providers to look at more cash items but say it’s a shift in mindset that is slow in coming.

“They are not comfortable asking patients to pay for things beyond the co-pay,” he said. “But, the patients will just go somewhere else that has the products you don’t.”

For their part, attendees came to the show ready to get to work.

“I accomplished what I came to do,” said Hunter Cook, with Woodbury, Ten.-based Action DME, who said he usually goes to the Atlanta show. “Every time, I meet new people, make new opportunities. It’s a no brainer.”