Moving the HME Industry Forward

Legislative/Advocacy

EFA, Medtrade Spring, and Incentivizing Aging in Place

May 2, 2016

KENSINGTON, MD – I attended the Environments for Aging (EFA) conference in Baltimore last year, and I am interested in going to next year’s EFA show, particularly in light of EFA’s co-location with Medtrade Spring in 2017. I expect my interest in EFA will increase, particularly as that show grows to cover home and design products for aging in place, moving beyond its foundation in facilities/institutions.

Chasing Private Pay
The underlying story of Medtrade Spring and Medtrade has increasingly been about chasing the elusive holy grail of private pay (also known as retail and/or caretail) in an industry built on the Medicare reimbursement model. Similarly, EFA’s foundation is Medicaid reimbursement for nursing homes along with the well financed senior housing industry.

For EFA, the elusive holy grail is aging in place and remodeling for the 70% of older Americans who are not rich enough for private senior housing, cannot afford 24 x7 care in the home, and do not have long term care insurance. They are also ineligible for Medicaid-covered nursing homes, so they must pay out of pocket for services in their homes. This huge, but disaggregated, population for whom there is little data, equals 80 million consumers. That is the growth opportunity I’m watching.

Where is the Rub?
This market has never responded, even after a quarter century of AARP and others calling on them to preserve independence, avoid falls, and reduce the burden on families by preparing their homes for aging. From that experience, one thing we KNOW is that appealing to personal responsibility does not work.

BUT this population votes, donates, and volunteers in record numbers! So they ACT on civic responsibility.

Can the business community support efforts to galvanize these consumers to demand policies that incentivize private investment to increase the supply of age-friendly homes? That is civic responsibility. It is also a good way to increase sales and jobs to the tech, construction, and DME industries. It worked for solar collectors, where incentives for small-scale private investment launched an industry.

Much like proper HME saves money by avoiding hospitalizations, a Johns Hopkins study showed that $1,300 invested in home updates for those with little resources results in health care savings. How about using 401(K)/IRA dollars (without tax or penalty) for home updates by those with more resources? This incentive, roughly 19% of the total investment, leverages private dollars, reaping a much larger healthcare savings.

Finding solutions to these problems is a challenge for HME providers in the 21st century. But their forces are much stronger when joined across silos with the tech and construction sectors. Homes Renewed connects consumers, and this broad coalition of business interests drives policy and investment for better and more economical housing and healthcare for older Americans.

A good place to explore these solutions will be at Medtrade, scheduled for Oct 31-Dec 3, 2016, at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta.

Louis Tenenbaum, the founder of Homes Renewed, Kensington, Md, is a leading authority on Aging in Place. He can be reached at www.louistenenbaum.com.