DULUTH, MN – As executive director of the Midwest Association for Medical Equipment Services & Supplies (MAMES) and the Southwest Medical Equipment Suppliers Association (SWMESA), Rose Schafhauser tracks issues relevant to HME providers in just shy of a dozen states.
Specifically, MAMES covers Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin; while SWMESA encompasses Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. As a veteran of more than 30 years in the industry, Schafhauser has seen the highs (golden commode and more) as well as the lows that saw the HME world painted with the brush of fraud and abuse.
In 2023, the general mood is on an upswing, thanks partially to the spotlight shined on providers during the pandemic. “Throughout the PHE, we finally got the recognition that we are critical in the continuum of care and saving money in the healthcare system,” says Schafhauser, who also provides administrative services for National Suppliers Clearinghouse Advisory Committee (NSCAC), the Jurisdiction A Council, the Region B Council, the Jurisdiction C Council and is the current Chairperson of State Leaders Council for AAHomecare.
Medtrade Monday sat down with Schafhauser to gauge her level of optimism and get a sense of where the next challenges and opportunities may emerge for the HME industry.
Medtrade Monday: What gives you optimism these days?
Schafhauser: We are seeing the next generation of HME providers getting more engaged. They bring the energy and enthusiasm needed to consistently look at new ways of doing business. Going away is the mentality that “we have always done it this way” because that just does not work in this new world.
Medtrade Monday: What is the biggest challenge for providers these days?
Schafhauser: With how complicated our industry is, and the amount of time and energy needed to learn various positions, we hear time and again how challenging it is to hold on to new staff. Staff members find out just how complicated it is and are not willing to invest the time needed.
Medtrade Monday: What is the biggest opportunity?
Schafhauser: There is an opportunity to continue to change the mentality of payers and convince them that we are critical to the healthcare continuum of care. Payers need to know that we will not undervalue what it is that we do and we will fight for recognition in the form of reimbursement.
There is an opportunity to change how we look at customers who come to our locations and think, ‘How can we improve your quality of life today?’ instead of, ‘What insurance do you have?’ We should show our customers that we are there for them when they need us the most. Another opportunity is to possibly grow the cash business with so many great items out there that compliment the usual staples that people are looking to buy.
Medtrade Monday: How did you first get involved with the HME world?
Schafhauser: After college, I got a job at Travelers Medicare which handled all Part B Medicare, including DMEPOS. Eventually I was recruited by a former Medicare employee to come work for a new DME company in St Paul, Minn. I was their only biller at the time. I worked my way up the ladder from biller to general manager of the company that turned into a four-location, $17 million company in 1999. After that, I left to start my own company called Association Management, LLC.
Medtrade Monday: What motivated you to get involved with the advocacy side of the business?
Schafhauser: Early in my career, I had a few mentors who I looked up to and they loved doing advocacy. They let me tag along during my first trip to DC. I was instantly hooked by the end of that trip. It was so empowering when I would actually get responses back from my members of congress.
I would save the emails/voicemails as motivation. My favorite voicemail message was from Senator Pat Roberts from Kansas who left me a voicemail that he wanted to talk to me about this thing called competitive bidding, and he was told that he needed to talk to me by one of his constituents. I might have replayed that message a few times during the original implementation during that difficult time.
Medtrade Monday: Why are many providers hesitant to get involved in HME advocacy?
Schafhauser: Everyone I talk to is overwhelmed with the day-to-day life in our industry. If advocacy hasn’t been their thing, they may think it will take a lot of time that they don’t have.
Medtrade Monday: What’s the best reason to get over that hesitancy?
Schafhauser: There have been some real positive wins for this industry, Throughout the PHE, we finally got the recognition that we are critical in the continuum of care and saving money in the healthcare system. The state/regional/national associations and other industry stakeholders, such as VGM, all work together to develop resources to make the process for advocating easy so that it doesn’t take a lot of time.