BOWLING GREEN, KY – After a 45-minute chat with Thad F. Connally III, the word that comes to mind is “Prial-esque” in that his passion harkens back to the enthusiasm of legendary HME advocate Shelly Prial.
Officials at AAHomecare no doubt agree, and will be presenting Connally with its AAHomecare/Mal Mixon Legislative Advocate Award at this month’s AAHomecare Washington Legislative Conference (May 25-26).
As the current president of the Kentucky Medical Equipment Suppliers Association, and president/owner of First Choice Home Medical, Connally recently helped lead the effort to establish a new state-level DME Board, taking HME out from under supervision by the state’s Board of Pharmacy.
From his 13,000-sq-ft location in Bowling Green, Kentucky, the 55-year-old advocate has regularly made the journey to Washington, DC, for about a dozen years. Competitive bidding did not hit his doorstep until Jan 1 of this year, but that has never stopped him from arguing the industry’s case.
On the business side, Connally has always sought to serve his patients first, with the philosophy that success will come naturally as a byproduct of that dedication.
“If I become the biggest by being the best, then that’s fine,” he says. “But I’m not driven to be the biggest. I am driven to be the best, and it’s the same thing with my associations and the industry. We have come a long way…to get Dr. Price and Senator Thune to stand up and fight with us is incredible.”
Connally started the business in 2003 with industry experience and little else. Since then, the business has thrived and Bowling Green citizens know and respect First Choice Home Medical. Unfortunately, the second phase of rural cuts is threatening part of the business.
“On Dec 31, 2015, I was getting $180 and change per month for oxygen,” explains Connally. “On Jan 1, 2016, it dropped to $137. Now it may go to somewhere between $71 to $85 for a monthly rental. That is unsustainable. I can’t take care of an oxygen patient for $70 per month. It’s impossible. I’m a respiratory therapist. I want to treat people and take care of them, but you just can’t operate at that price anymore.
“I’m praying, and I’m going to work as hard as I can to get this delay with the Price bill and the Thune bill,” he continues. “It’s going to be a tough sled. We need people in every state in this great country to go out there and inform their members of Congress as to what’s going to happen. A lot of companies will go down, and then we are going to have real access problems.”