KNOXVILLE, TN – When Ashley Wolfe Plauché visited Rep Diane Black’s (R-Tenn) office earlier this year during the AAHomecare Legislative Conference, it was the continuation of a multi-year conversation. Thanks to previous visits, Black’s assistants knew all about the HME industry, and Plauche could talk about specific policy initiatives.
As communications director for Lambert’s Health Care, Knoxville, Tenn, the 33-year-old Plauche speaks with a keen appreciation for the mom-and-pop provider. Her parents built Lambert’s, and Plauche joined the family business full time in 2005, a few years after graduating college with a degree in advertising.
While she did not always intend to join the family business, Plauche came to view the HME world as an ideal way to nurture her caring and creative sides. That caring has since blossomed into yet another role as executive director of AtHomes, the Association for Tennessee Home Oxygen and Medical Equipment Services, Knoxville, Tenn.
“Some of my work for Lambert’s is government relations, so it’s a nice overlap with what I do for AtHomes,” says Plauche, who is no stranger to 50- and occasionally even 60-hour weeks during certain months. “We have had companies in our state association who have gone out of business, and colleagues who have cut their staff and closed their doors.
“You must be willing to think creatively, get out of that box, and reach out to legislators,” she continues. “We have people who are passionate and committed. But I am concerned for providers who think they can rely on Medicare as their primary payor and still be here tomorrow.”
Medtrade is one way that Plauche and her co-workers keep up with the latest developments. “I go to Medtrade to meet with industry colleagues from across the
country, and for the educational sessions,” she says. “It’s a great resource and
value for the money.”
Lambert’s has long tried to diversify its offerings through multiple divisions. Plauche’s mother Elizabeth runs a uniform division (mostly medical scrubs) while other parts of the store provide traditional medical, retail medical, a respiratory department, and home modifications such as stair lifts.
Particularly with home modification, Plauche says, “You can make an immediate difference. It is different, because it is out of pocket. A lot of times consumers don’t realize that Medicare won’t pay for everything, so there is an educational barrier that we have to work through.”
Plauche acknowledges that competitive bidding has been “really challenging” for Lambert’s, a two-store provider that won six contracts. “But when I say ‘winner,’ I don’t mean that anyone wins in this program,” she laments. “Not only that, there are the complications of face to face and of course the audits.”
When she is not serving double duty for Lambert’s and AtHomes, Plauche and her husband of seven years (pictured) like to escape into the woods for much needed relaxation. “My husband Josh and I try to go a couple of times a month,” she says. “The base of the Smoky Mountains is just an hour away to get into the middle of nowhere…I also do graphic design, and recently started making cards. Sometimes we forget to connect with those who have made an impact on our lives, so I do customized artwork on the front of the card, and write a message on the inside to try to uplift someone for a day.”