BARBOURSVILLE, W.V. – Regina Gillispie, RRT, agrees with some colleagues who want to emphasize HME’s role in fighting the pandemic to ultimately help the industry.
As the owner of Best Home Medical, Barboursville, W.V., and winner of the 2018 Van Miller Homecare Champion Award, Gillispie closely tracks the tone and content of advocacy from her state, which is largely rural. Medtrade Monday sat down with Gillispie to get the latest on her thinking about competitive bidding, as well as the role of rural HMEs (and pharmacies) in fighting the pandemic.
Medtrade Monday: How well do legislators understand the role of rural DMEs these days?
Gillispie: There is a lot of work to be done. My frustration right now with advocacy is trying to get more companies involved and more people involved. We need more to join our state association and the national association [AAHomecare]. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.) do understand our industry because of years of going up there and aggravating them.
Medtrade Monday: What recent aggravation have you been up to?
Gillispie: I went to one of Sen. Capito’s fundraisers, even though I don’t necessarily agree with all of her political views, and we talked about PPE. I was telling her, ‘My drivers and my respiratory therapists are in these homes and we need the affordable PPE just like the hospitals do.’ She then mentioned in her speech about how important it was that HME be able to deliver to the home, and how important we are in freeing up hospital beds. She gets it, but it’s like the squeaky wheel. You need to keep reminding them that they need to help us. She and Manchin understand, and the other three members of Congress mostly sign on to our issues in solidarity with the senators.
Medtrade Monday: What are your priorities in 2021?
Gillispie: Right now, our industry has a golden opportunity to promote why we are so important. The rural DME providers are out there taking care of patients. I think our industry could do a better job of promoting what we do. We should brag on ourselves more. I’d like to see the advocacy associations start a marketing campaign pushing out our message and reminding people about what we do and the importance of what we do. I am constantly doing that on our Facebook page. I have advocated for a Did You Know? campaign. Did you know that HME companies provide oxygen in thousands of homes in America each day? Did you know that HME is way more cost effective than a hospital stay? We should be educating people.
Medtrade Monday: What else should the advocacy organizations be pursuing?
Gillispie: I would like to see more of a push to try to get competitive bidding eliminated—whether CMS will do that, I don’t know. In the middle of a pandemic that is primarily respiratory in nature, that’s the time to go and say, ‘Why are we cutting reimbursement on the equipment we need so much?’ I’d like to see that. I know that’s a hard sell, but you never know until you ask. Even though the CBA went away this time, we’re still living by CBA classification which means some payors and Medicare are paying at that lower CBA rate. If they did away with that classification, we would come up to what the non-CBA areas are being paid. I’d like to see that happen.
Medtrade Monday: How much ground do you cover in taking care of your patients?
Gillispie: In our state, there are probably 12 counties under 10,000 people. My drivers are driving about 800 to 1,000 miles per week, and that’s for each driver.
Medtrade Monday: What has been the role of local pharmacies in the vaccination effort?
Gillispie: I have friends who have pharmacies, so I know a little bit. We have the oldest and sickest population in this state. When the nursing homes started to get hit really hard, the governor went ahead and made the nursing homes and the assisted living facilities a priority. Instead of waiting on Walgreen’s or CVS or the big nationals to get going, he reached out to the local pharmacies in the community who already work with a lot of these nursing homes and set them up to deliver and administer the vaccine.
Especially in the rural areas, there might not even be a CVS or a Walgreen’s nearby. It may be 30 or 40 minutes away. They really used the local pharmacies to get people in the nursing homes and assisted living facilities vaccinated. They just finished the second dose in all the nursing homes and assisted living facilities in West Virginia for the employees and residents who were currently in there.
Medtrade Monday: Were there any West Virginia changes in the recent election?
Gillispie: We got the same ones. Our members did not change. On the positive side, they have signed on to everything that we’ve asked them to sign on to. Our senators Manchin and Capito have been great to work with, and I’ve been working with them a long time. The West Virginia senators can pretty much convince the W.V. members to sign on to the same things. They help us with that. So far they’ve all been good about signing on and sending letters. For supporting this industry, they’ve all been good. The senators have been great, because we’ve aggravated and nagged them too.
Medtrade Monday: How well do you know the staff members for these members of Congress?
Gillispie: When the Capitol riots happened, I had been talking to the people in those offices for so many years, and a lot are young people. I was e-mailing them and checking on them, because I wanted to make sure they were safe. They e-mailed me right back and let me know they were safe and I was thankful.