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Moving the HME Industry Forward

General Healthcare

Home Mod in the Spotlight

by Greg Thompson • May 15, 2017

WASHINGTON, DC – The Senior Accessible Housing Act (HR 1780) is back in 2017, reintroduced by Reps Charlie Crist (D-Fla), and Bruce Poliquin (R-Maine). The bill would provide tax credits to seniors who install home modifications. Lawmakers introduced a similar bill last year, but advocates are hopeful that this version will gain traction.

“This bill is a very big deal,” said Jim Greatorex (pictured left), vice president, Accessible Home Improvement of America (AHIA), a division of the VGM Group, Waterloo, Iowa. “The biggest problem in the home modification industry right now is that too much of the revenue comes from third party payers, when the real market is the private pay market.”

Greatorex plans a comprehensive panel discussion on the topic at Medtrade, scheduled for Oct 23-26, 2017, at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, with manufacturers and providers. “The session at Medtrade in particular is the future of the aging in place market, and the future is really bright,” says Greatorex. “This will be an exceptional opportunity for attendees. Many people are predicting the revenue in this niche could easily be bigger than what is spent on home oxygen right now. It’s going to take about five to eight years to get there, but that is what’s coming.”

Medtrade Monday sat down with Jim Greatorex last week to get a sense of the home modification industry and its potential impact on an industry that is looking for new revenue streams.

Medtrade Monday: How difficult is it to get involved in home modification?
Greatorex: It’s not that difficult, especially if you already have a service department. You’ll have people involved who already have skills to be able to learn how to be a good installer. The real tricky part is becoming a certified home assessor, where you can go in professionally and comfortably recommend the appropriate changes and modifications to make someone safe, and with product and modifications that will not just be good for the next six months, but for the next five years. That’s the key, that’s where the training is really big.

Medtrade Monday: When do most consumers think about home modification?
Greatorex: Two things happen. First, in most cases, people who purchase these products privately, most times, it’s after they fall and hurt themselves, not before. It really needs to happen before, and I think this [proposed] bill will stimulate people to think about doing that.

Medtrade Monday: Why is the bill and home modification important to the HME industry?
Greatorex: I think it will add revenue to the industry, which needs it badly.

Medtrade Monday: What is Aging in Place?
Greatorex: You talk about aging in place, and people don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s really not a known, evolved niche market yet. This bill [HR 1780 - Senior Accessible Housing Act] has the opportunity to really elevate the concept. I’m excited; we have a big meeting next month. We’re joining forces with the people who spearheaded getting this bill dropped, and we’re having a meeting in Washington D.C. next month to strategize, and hopefully get the industry to unite and collaborate.
 
Medtrade Monday: Who are the people who spearheaded the Bill?
Greatorex: The gentleman who was behind getting this bill dropped is Louis Tenenbaum. He was a part of Medtrade Spring 2017. He was the keynote speaker on the Environments for Aging side.

Medtrade Monday: If HME providers are to be a vital part of home modification, what needs to happen?
Greatorex: We need to make sure the industry comes off as a professional industry so that Congress can be assured that the American public will be dealing with skilled professionals. The bill has a chance at going somewhere. This bill makes a lot of sense in many ways. It’s a win for everyone involved. It’s not just an industry screaming to be noticed. It’s a win for the consumer and a win for the taxpayer. We’ve got people spending their own money. The government has to fund it with a tax cut, but compared to what they will save in every other area of health care, it should be a no-brainer. 

Medtrade Monday: Do you view this Bill as non-partisan?
Greatorex: I believe this one is very non-partisan. Here are some stats. Out of every new senior housing project that is either in existence or in the works, there are 100 homes that need to be modified to be made safe for the demand of people turning senior, at the age where they need these devices. We have a real social dilemma on the horizon. People are living longer, and as their mobility and independence becomes compromised. There is no safe place for them to be. That’s where this industry comes in and can be the solution. You can take it right back to the outcomes that everybody talks about in HME. This is another facet that can help with positive outcomes.

Medtrade Monday: Is there an actual training certificate that can be earned?
Greatorex: There are a couple of trainings out there; one that we administer at VGM, and there is one that is administered by the National Home Builders Association. Together, they make a pretty good piece, but they have nothing else other than being a good education tool. They have no licensing rights attached to them. So in other words, you don’t have to have any of these credentials to perform work in this industry.

Medtrade Monday: Is that a problem?
Greatorex: That is a problem that we really need to look at closely to fix. No payer makes it mandatory that folks are certified, but some of them request it. But again, we’re looking at expanding the real market which is private pay, and I think we need to make sure that we’re showing the government that we have a legitimate professional industry that can provide services to people who will be given tax credits.  

Medtrade Monday: Is that aspect in this?
Greatorex: It is not, but there’s going to be some folks at our upcoming meeting who feel strongly that both need to happen at the same time. If we don’t have a plan to professionalize the industry, our chances of the bill getting passed are not as good. That’ll be a part of the discussion. I think you’ll have manufacturers who feel like they already do that; why should we spend time and energy on this if we already do it? But you must see the bigger picture, and you have to bring the whole industry with you and level the playing field. Just make sure that the consumer is protected.

In addition to speaking on the topic of home modification at Medtrade, scheduled for Oct 23-26, 2017, Jim Greatorex will again be hosting the Innovative HME Retail Awards when Medtrade convenes at the Georgia World Congress Center.