Moving the HME Industry Forward


A Decade After the Medicare Modernization Act

October 21, 2013

FORT COLLINS, CO – At my first Medtrade in October 2003, the dreaded Medicare Modernization Act (MMA) of 2003 had yet to be passed. Two months later, in December 2003, President Bush signed the legislation, proclaiming it to be “the greatest advance in health care coverage for America’s seniors since the founding of Medicare.”

Buried within the expansive document, the brilliantly named “competitive bidding” lurked like a cicada waiting to hatch. Not surprisingly, the talk of the October 2003 Medtrade in Atlanta was competitive bidding. It sounded so fair, and as a relative newbie to the industry, I thought, “What’s the big deal?”

After hearing impassioned speeches from people such as Tom Ryan, and chatting with Kay Cox, president of AAHomecare back in 2003, I finally got the message. While the name was brilliant, the actual program was (and is) miserable, and certainly not fair.

Since that first Medtrade a decade ago, I have had long phone conversations with expert economists who have absolutely no industry connections. These people dispassionately agree that the competitive bidding auction system does not make sense. It’s not a matter of opinion for them. It’s simply a fact.

As a trade journalist, I have covered many medical industries going on two decades now. When you consider that HME has a relatively tiny portion of the Medicare pie, the amount of scrutiny it has attracted is truly unprecedented. And yet, it is the hand that the industry has been dealt.

Fortunately, leadership at AAHomecare is incredibly strong. Tom Ryan is an outstanding choice to lead the organization, and he is surrounded by excellent staff members.

And yet, Tom Ryan can’t do it alone. Increasing membership remains a huge priority at AAHomecare. With the Accredited Medical Equipment Providers Association (AMEPA) and the National Association of Independent Medical Equipment Services (NAIMES) now folded into AAHomecare, the industry has never been more united.

Still, the culture of association membership in HME does not yet compare to other industries. For example, I spoke with the president of the American Association of Orthodontists last year. I asked him to estimate the total percentage of orthodontists who were members. Without missing a beat, he casually tossed out a figure of about 98%, lamenting that it was not 100%.

It’s true that the industries are quite different, but even a little bit of that unified spirit could go a long way toward funding AAHomecare’s vital initiatives. The industry remains under the government microscope, and that unified voice will no doubt be more important than ever.

Together, AAHomecare and Medtrade have evolved over the last decade to fuel unity and foster better ways of doing business. As the premiere event for networking, education, and products, Medtrade will continue to work with AAHomecare to adapt to changing times and help the industry thrive in the years ahead.

If you have issues you wish to see covered in Medtrade Monday, my line is always open. Feel free to give me a call at (970) 206-0071, or send an e-mail:

Greg Thompson is the editor of Medtrade Monday.